Welcome to Breakdown, an unofficial resource and discussion list about the innovative guitarist/producer Michael Brook. This site is infrequently updated, but contains a great deal of background info which will remain online. For up-to-date news and information, visit Michael Brook's official site and MySpace page.

Babbling Brook a compendium of articles reviews and interviews

Best of all Possible Musics: Michael Brook and Loop Guru mess with Eno
by Nicholas Jennings
[excerpts archived here without permission]

In the world of ambient music, Brian Eno is god, the all-knowing, all-powerful genius of the recording studio. So omnipotent is Eno that his disciples can be found on pop, new age, nouveau classical and indie charts on both sides of the Atlantic. His pioneering role in world music dates back to 1979, when he recorded ethno-ambient classics like Possible Musics with Jon Hassell and My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts with David Byrne.

Recent albums by two of Eno's followers are further proof of his ongoing influence over knob-twiddlers and string-tweakers alike. Michael Brook is a Toronto lad who has gone, via his association with Eno, from playing guitar in Martha And The Muffins to becoming one of the world's leading global producers, with albums by Youssou N'Dour, Khaled, U. Srinivas and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to his credit. Brook's latest effort with Khan, the inspired Night Song (Real World / Virgin / EMI), finds the York University grad in a collaborative role, co-writing all but one of eight tracks with the Pakistani singer and lending his "infinite guitar," keyboards and bass throughout. With its funky, trip-hop rhythms and dreamy, passionate vocals, this is ambient Nus' at its best -- and the Qawwali star's most accessible album to date.

Night Song 's profile was boosted by Khan's presence (with Eddie Vedder no less) on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. According to Brook, the timing was quite serendipitous. "Our record had been delayed for a year, and everyone was feeling a bit frustrated," Brook explains from his home outside of San Francisco. "Then the film came out and Night Song was finally ready. It couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it."

Brook's approach for Night Song was to record lengthy takes of Khan's ecstatic vocals and then edit them down into songs of five and six minutes. That Eno trademark edit-based compositional technique backfired on the 1990 album, Mustt Mustt, when Brook inadvertently cut up some of Khan's continuous singing. Recalls Brook, still a bit sheepish at the thought: "I've since learned that Qawwali songs are sacred and the lyrics are everything. When Nusrat heard it, he asked what went wrong. I explained that in our music, we have instrumental breaks. He replied that in his music, lyrics are everything and breaks only happen when someone forgets the words." Oops.

For all his newfound knowledge and respect of Qawwali traditions, Brook remains a boundary-pushing modernist. "I'm all for archiving delicate cultural things and trying to preserve them," he says, "but art is very much like life. If it stays still, it's dead. I strongly believe that cultures are both resilient and dynamic. And any artist from any culture has to learn and move on." (Nusrat is at Roy Thomson Hall Aug. 24.)