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

Cobalt Blue review
by Paul Barton-Davis, 7 December 1992
from Hyperreal
[reprinted here without permission]

Cobalt BlueThere's a group of people out there who spent the late Seventies listening to the noises and abstractions of German electronic colorists (Tangerine Dream, Schulze, Ashra), the bleeps and bloops of the Continental synthesists (Jarre, Vangelis) and sometimes to the mysterious moods of some branches of Art Rock (Can, Moebius, Cluster, Soft Machine).

I was one of those people. Sometime during the eighties, I got my first exposure to Windham Hill from Ira Stein and Russell Walder's "Elements". Compared with the bombastics of TD, and the density of most of the other groups and artists listed above, it was an amazingly refreshing experience. Just piano and oboe, not playing Hindemith, but playing contemporary music with passion and intelligence. From the sales figures, it seems that a lot of people, not just us crusty old analog synth fans, felt the same way about Windham Hill's color and tone, and a lot of them spent the eighties listening to pleasant, but hardly challenging music. By the time the Nineties rolled around, we were drowning under a surplus of nondescript piano soloists, endless "world music" syntheses and sounds as muddled as TD's "Exit" (the last TD album most early fans relate to). Escape into the heady fields of Manfred Eicher's ECM label was possible for a few, but for the most part, those of us who like our electronics broody and experimental were left in the cold.

It's time to go home, stopping to buy Michael Brook's "Cobalt Blue" (4AD) along the way.

Michael Brook is a Canadian guitarist who invented the Infinite Guitar (whose sound has been made famous by The Edge), convinced the world's greatest Qwwali singer to make a "world music" recording, and got Massive Attack to remix the title track. Other than the N.F. Ali Khan recording, my only prior exposure to Brook was his "Hybrid" release, and an Opal concert in London in 1987. Live, he was amazing, but Hybrid left me cold.

"Cobalt Blue" isn't "New Age". This isn't "World Music". This isn't "Rock". This is good old fashioned German noise, reshaped, reinterpreted and reinvented and refashioned by someone who has never played anything like it. No sequencer riffs here, but the same sense of mood, exploration and noise pervade this recording.

Brook gets major help from the old EG / Opal stable: the Eno brothers, Dan Lanois, as well as few new hands (James Pinker on percussion as a notable highlight). This recording ranges from almost upbeat ("Breakdown") to the moody ("Ten") via the ambient-noise-ridden ("Skip Wave"). Through it all is Brooks' guitar (and sometimes bass), wandering from the Infinite Guitar wave to Ennio Morricone and back via some demonstrations that make it perfectly clear how much U2 owe this man. Behind him, the Eno brothers, Pinker and others weave dense layers of sounds, often highly reminiscent of Ashra's "Blackouts". Guitars, percussion and synthesizers confuse each other's roles. It's hardly a coincidence that my favorite tracks are all "structurally rearranged by Brian Eno" - the man who has sat quietly through Teutonic electronics, New Age and now World Music, doing his own thing, helping others do theirs.

On LandThis is probably the best electronic(ish) album I've heard in a decade. It evokes Gabriel's "Passion" in places, Eno's "On Land" in others, and rarely wanders off the track of the absolutely wonderful. The only possible complaint is that it only lasts 45 minutes. In an era when Brook could have packed 110 minutes of this stuff onto the same disc, that's a crime.