David Bowie, “Leon Is Outside” (Eat A Peach EAP 145)
Suite 1: I Am With Name / Suite 2: Leon Takes Us Outside / Suite 3: The Enemy Is Fragile
The Genesis of David Bowie’s album “1.Outside” began at his 1992 wedding to Iman one of the invited guests was his old Berlin-era partner, Brian Eno. The pair spoke about the lack of traction in music lately and discussed the fact that they both had ideas that they could throw around. The ideas came around that the duo would form a ‘super-group’ of sorts and release an album (Rather like Eno’s collaborations with Harold Budd, Cluster, Robert Fripp, et al.) to promote that contract.
Towards the end of 1994, Q magazine in the UK had also asked Bowie to write a 10 day ‘In The Life Of .. ‘ diary for it’s 100th edition. Thinking that this might be a bit of a vapid, vanity project which could come off a little boring to Bowie’s mind he instead decided to write in the guise of ‘Nathan Adler’, an “art murder mystery” which was published as the “Diary of Nathan Adler, Or the Art Ritual Murder of Baby Grace Belew” both in the magazine and eventually in the “1. Outside” sleeve notes. Bowie had seriously begun to collect art and started to hang with the enfant terrible of the young British artist world such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. Creating his own art, consuming more and more of it and also satirising the pomposity of the new followers.
Recorded on the 12th March, 1994, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Reeves Gabrels, Mike Garson, Erdal Kizilcay and Sterling Cambell improvised a three-and-a-half-hour opus at the Mountain Studios in Montreux. The general idea is that these musical pieces came about because of the ‘Leon’ suites being rejected by the record company / companies (Bowie was without a contract at this point) for being “uncommercial” (In a world of CD singles, etc, yeah, that makes sense) and thus these are outtakes bunched together from the ‘1.Outside’ sessions – not true! These are the oft’ mentioned ‘Leon’ suites that were concocted by Bowie and band in the guise of their supergroup and make up 3/5th’s of the music that was prepared for release. Two parts were later ‘deleted’ (Though one assumes still exist deep in the archives) and would form the basis of a single album (A double if the other pieces were added to a second disk). The later album had it’s own outtakes and so these are not to be confused with these recordings. The ‘Leon Suites’ were first uploaded on to the internet c. 2015 but it would be early 2016 when they were picked up as FLAC files to download.
Going back to the story of the label’s reticence to release the ‘Leon’ project, it makes sense. There are very few single pieces that could be specifically derived from this ‘medley’ however, it’s not the Sinfronia orchestra playing the hits of music concrete and certainly not without melody. Indeed, there are parts of these pieces which are infinitely listenable if not hummable, direct lines flow between Bowie’s later work in ‘Earthling’ and ‘Hours’ such were the paucity of ideas that were packed in to the blend. The sounds are typically 90’s in style – that type of jarringly loopish, stuttering, glitchyness that dance music was edging towards appended by the brutal heavy grunge sound that was also prevalent at the time, a molten mash of spoken word (In the guise of Nathan Adler and through a series of accents – imitating Iggy Pop, the supposed Nathan Adler and in Bowie’s own, distinct voice), singing, diatribal shouting and bold prophecies – It’s cute to hear Bowie exclaiming against the internet, though I assume most of his words are deeply tongue in cheek – Other ‘lyrics’ are an amalgamation of nonsense wrapped through the Verbasizer programme on Bowie’s macintosh computer.
Certainly an interesting trip, for Bowie fans, this being an unreleased album it’s dependent on your tastes as to whether you can stomach this era of Bowie’s career and whether you want to hear more, for casual fans, you won’t be spinning this more than once or twice. It is good of EAP to bring it to silver disk, shame that they’ve been instructed to call the ‘Outside outtakes’ however as a second volume of the true outtakes would be nice to see from this label. If you collect all elements of Bowie’s career, you need to have this.
I have always been more of a casual Bowie fan but since his death I have started collecting a majority of his output, both officially and unofficially. Shame on me for missing the boat all these years as I have truly come to love almost everything he has ever done. Needless to say, my curiosity got the best of me and I tracked down a copy of this title. This release sounds great and the sessions are very intriguing to say the least. The tracks are definitely a little “out there”, but I really enjoyed it.