Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden (1988)
Talk Talk had made their name with a few perfectly decent new wave singles, songs like "Talk Talk" and "It's My Life," and some solid synth-driven pop-art albums, before Mark Hollis decided to leave the pop behind on 1988's Spirit of Eden and, even more so, the band's final album, 1991's Laughing Stock. I find the two pretty comparable, each sporting 6 extended tracks, taking a few hints of the band's earlier lush, new wave synth pop, and stretching it out with jazz, prog, Tim Buckley-styled art-damaged folk-torch songs, and a general sense of slow, moody experimentalism. I don't have a preference between the two; you can pretty much play them back to back and assume it was intended as a double album, albeit recorded three years apart.
Spirit starts off slow and hushed, the first few minutes of "The Rainbow" almost an Eno-esque ambient piece; but then the tribal percussion, weird pianos, stabs of distortion, and disembodied vocals kick in, ending with one of the most mind-blowing pieces of headphone-friendly psychedelic weirdness this side of early Floyd. The next song, "Eden," charts a similar path, quiet and atmospheric and building, with a cathartic center before it drops back off again. And then "Desire" takes this to the limit, another quiet start before heading into a percussive jam that's like post-punk Krautrock, a blast of controlled fury. The second half is a little less jarring, mostly downbeat and somber; "Inheritance" has an unfurled bit of energy in the center as well, but it drops off quite a bit in the end, somewhere between Pink Floyd and Soft Machine, jazzy and spacey.
It's definitely an album that, like its successor, needs room to breathe; it doesn't reach out and grab you, really needing a few hours in a dark room with a glass of wine and some headphones. But when the hooks dig in, it can be pretty emotional.
Here's a video of an edited version of "I Believe In You":
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