Daniel Lanois


BY Jason SchneiderPublished Jun 1, 2005

Following on the heels of his previous solo album, 2003’s Shine, Belladonna shows that the über-producer is firmly focused on his own artistic vision and not as the conduit for others. But while Lanois has carved out his own reputation as a singer-songwriter, Belladonna displays his more well-known skills at creating sonic landscapes. Throughout the album’s 13 instrumentals, Lanois and his chief collaborator, drummer Brian Blade, capture a wide range of moods, from the churning opener "Two Worlds,” to the delicate suspended animation of "Dusty.” Largely recorded in Mexico, the album echoes some of that culture’s rhythms, and many parts are reminiscent of Lanois’s fine work on Willie Nelson’s Teatro. But as with Shine, the best moments on Belladonna occur when Lanois plays pedal steel guitar, an instrument he grew up with but only rediscovered recently. Its incorporation into his overall sonic palette is breathtaking at times, and raises the bar from what, without it, could have been simply a rehashing of the ambient techniques that Lanois pioneered with Brian Eno 25 years ago. Instead, Belladonna is an engaging work that is classic Lanois, but will appeal to fans of his non-ambient work as well.

Can you see this instrumental record as a companion piece to the song-based Shine? There are some sonic similarities between the two, but with this one the music was mostly based on simple sketches of ideas. I don’t want to brag, but with some of them I felt like I was picking up where Miles Davis left off in taking a simple riff or progression and amplifying the emotions behind it. Some of it also took me back to the things I did with Eno in Hamilton when we first met.

How much did touring in support of Shine influence Belladonna? When you’re looking at the faces of the crowd, you know what’s getting under people’s skin. There were moments making this album when we would get these great, euphoric takes and I would start thinking about how they would go over live, so I’m really looking forward to that experience again.

Are you going to continue doing your own work for the time being, rather than produce others? Producing is very much a two-way street. Whenever I come out of working with someone great, I’m always filled with inspiration. It’s been part of my education too, and at this point I don’t feel the need to do it as much as I used to. But I try to keep my ears open to new artists.
(ANTI- Records)

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