T Bone Burnett, Jay Bellerose, Keefus Ciancia/The Invisible Light/Verve/Forecast
Three Out Of Five Stars
The second entry into the collaborative trilogy series from T Bone Burnett, Jay Bellerose, and Keefus Ciancia, The Invisible Light veers sharply from the trio’s initial installment, which was acoustic in structure. By contrast, the new album consists almost entirely of songs marked by didactic rhythms and ominous overtones. Considering Ciancia’s reputation as a composer and scorer of soundtracks, it comes as little surprise. After all, he’s built his career on creating moods and melodies imbued with tone and texture. Burnett, on the other hand, has mostly veered away from the avant-garde, choosing instead to help advance Americana, courtesy of his efforts behind the boards for Counting Crows, Alison Krauss, Los Lobos, Gillian Welch, Gregg Allman, and Roy Orbison, as well as the role he played in overseeing the film scores for “Cold Mountain, “Walk the Line,” “Crazy Heart,” and, most tellingly, “O Brother, Where Are Thou?.” For his part, Jay Bellerose is a much-in-demand percussionist who’s played behind countless superstars—Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Allen Toussaint, Rhiannon Giddens, Joe Henry, and Aimee Mann, among them—but this particular effort is distinctly different from anything he’s offered up before.
Given its heady fusion of trance, electronica, tribal and global music, what isn’t necessarily surprising is the message it attempts to convey, one that revolves around the leap between fact and fiction, and the dangerous and disparate falsehoods that often taint one’s impression of reality through the propensity of social media, the internet, film, television, and all the other avenues of communication that bombard us on a daily basis, clouding our senses in the form of technical mass hypnosis.
Practically every song drives that message home. There’s not time but the present, It’s all happening at once, they intone on the opening track “I’m Starting A New Life Today.” “Mother Cross (We Think We Think)” echoes a similar sentiment: We think we think, We don’t know we don’t know, We’re afraid, we’re afraid, We ask why we ask why…”Utopia Chant” puts it more succinctly: We want you to know, You can learn anything…we want you to know.
Not surprisingly, these Orwellian soundscapes don’t make for a particularly easy listen. With the exception of “A Better Day Reprise,” all atmospheric ambiance, and the aforementioned “Mother Cross (We Think We Think),” the most melodic offering of the entire set, there’s little that’s anything less than overtly oppressive. That’s the point, however, and it’s that collusion between sonics and strife that makes The Invisible Light radiate so remarkably.
Photo by Jason Myers/Sacks and Co.