Brilliant Adventure

November 26, 2013

all the way to memphis

Brilliant Adventure.

‘Brill’ is a luverly instrumental, again with koto, that Reeves and I did in the front room in Bermuda,” Bowie recalled in a web chat. Considered as incidental music for an Omikron game sequence, “Brilliant Adventure” wound up sequenced on ‘Hours’ as an ampersand between sturm (“New Angels of Promise“) and drang (“The Dreamers”).

As with other ‘Hours’ tracks, “Brilliant Adventure” is echo-music, here of “Moss Garden,” Bowie’s koto piece on “Heroes” (which itself echoed Edgar Froese’s “Epsilon in Malaysian Pale,” as commenter Gnomemansland noted). “Moss Garden” had ambition (an attempt, successful or not, to interweave “Western” and “Eastern” soundscapes) and fearlessness: it was the work of a man seemingly intent on becoming an inspired amateur again, plucking the strings of an instrument he could scarcely play. The piece kept opening up as it went on, disclosing new perspectives as it wandered.

By comparison, “Brilliant Adventure” is a tiny ship corked in a tiny bottle. It begins with an eight-bar sequence: over a bed of synthetic chimes and a (soon-diminishing) repeating bass note, its only melody is a descending five-note koto and synthesizer “flute” line that, with a chord change, diminishes to solitary koto. First seeming to wane, the koto rallies to tidily close with a four-note rising figure, ending back on the opening note. The synth flute, freed from the shackles of the top melody, indulges a few notes and then quietly seizes control of the piece, whose tempo suddenly slows to a crawl.

At 42 seconds, the track ends; it’s reborn a moment later. The entire sequence repeats, with barely any variation. Again, there’s an ending; again, a stubborn resurrection. This rebirth proves too much: midway through the first eight-bar sequence, the track finally, gracefully expires. Life, as it turns out, isn’t quite worth the effort after a few rounds.

Recorded late 1998, Bowie’s house, Bermuda?; May 1999, Seaview Studio, Bermuda? with overdubs at Chung King Studios and Looking Glass Studios, New York.

Top: “Zerokra,” “Memphis, 1999.”