Mark Hollis

Few artists had the career trajectory that Mark Hollis and his collaborators in Talk Talk had.

Many musical acts start out on the fringes and move to the center, shaving off the eccentricities and otherness to become more palatable.

But Hollis and Talk Talk went the other way.

Not to deliberately alienate audiences.

But to arrive at something that was true to his and their artistic vision.

Something really worth their effort, and yours as a listener.

Spirit of Eden best represents what Hollis was aiming for.

Not so much songs or music, but an experience.

Not so much something new, but something unique.

In Spirit of Eden, you could hear Talk Talk tapping into a broad palate of blues, jazz, gospel, classical, avant garde and rock, somehow sewing it all together so you couldn’t detect the seams.

Although it sounds organic and spontaneous, the band built the album on hours and hours of recordings that were pared away, erased.

It wasn’t so much creation as it was shaping or editing.

Such manipulation should not result in a classic.

But much in the way that Miles Davis and Teo Macero fashioned several groundbreaking albums together, Talk Talk managed the same feat.

Not a lot of people heard it that way.

Publications like Trouser Press and Rolling Stone excoriated the album.

For many, it was pretension.

A bore.

But Hollis, who once observed he got on great with silence, who liked to leave spaces in his music, virtually removed himself from music, and in doing so he left a space for people to start listening to what he had done without distraction.

And in many ways, that may have been his most amazing achievement.

Hollis passed away this week after a brief illness.

He left behind at least four albums that are essentially masterpieces, and an additional two that were strong enough to hint at what was coming.

And they are a perfect reason to break the silence he has finally permanently embraced.

 

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