On the one hand, this film is a beautiful diary and a travelogue for happenings in Daniel Lanois' life over a period of one year. On the other, people who have little knowledge of his role behind the music of the artists who appear or are mentioned in the film, might find it difficult engage with some of the stories, as everything mentioned has a long and interesting history behind. To the uninitiated it might be a first step in the world of DL, and for the others a feast of beautiful ideas, moments, performances. It would have been nice if there were more people taking part in this film (who were part of his resume, like Dylan, Gabriel or even producer Malcolm Burn) and to hear them also talk about creativity. Maybe all of that is for the next movie. Here Is What Is
is an excellent film in which Lanois' passion for what he does is evident in every frame.
The Final Product: The CD
The CD that this film shows coming into fruition is by no means just an accompanying album or a soundtrack. Though many of the songs featured can be seen and heard during the process of their making and fruition, the end product is an entirely different story that has a life of its own. Here Is What Is is, in its CD format, a successful and enduring album filled with mystery and grandeur characteristic of Lanois' albums. By fusing a delicately expressive musicality with a lustrous, "trademark" smoothness that's unsurpassed in today's music, Lanois has refined his art to yet a greater clarity. Deep yet radiant with light, melancholy yet optimistic, achingly sad yet euphoric, Here Is What Is is another minor and unexpected masterpiece by Lanois.
A successor of both Shine and the all instrumental Belladonna, it shares its predecessors' basis of guitar-based (pedal steel guitar as well) atmospheric clouds, both dark and light. From the first album Acadie until the last one, Lanois has crafted a sound world and a vocabulary that are instantly recognizable. What is noticeable is how flexible that world is, as you see it evolving constantly from album to album, never the same.
Lanois' music literally shimmers with layers dotted with delicate melodies. It just invites endless descriptions from listeners and reviewers. He orchestrates a dream world full of hidden shadows, surrounding his pristine tones with sustained guitar textures and shimmering atmospheres. In a way, he has dug deep into his resources for a set of songs that are self-searching, full of religious faith and human compassion.
Here Is What Is is a collection of gentle, reflective folk-rock songs and instrumentals. "Where Will I Be" is a song that he wrote for Emmylou Harris for the monumental Wrecking Ball. This track and "Deep Blue" are the two selections that tie most closely to Lanois' previous outings. The title song is rife with Lanois' usual guitar artistry, possessing a catchy melody. He ties the dark to the light with poetic folk ballads like the lullabies "Not Fighting Anymore" and "I Like That." "Moondog" is a personal favorite. Built on irresistible rhythms, the waiving vocal lines are perfect, evoking the feeling of works such as "The Maker." The pedal steel guitar, which can be heard throughout the whole record, has its own spotlight on "Bladesteel," "Sacred and Secular" and "Joy."
Both the CD and the film end with "Luna Samba," an upbeat track with irresistible danceable drum beats. Close listening reveals the infinite care and genius with which these songs have been crafted. Here Is What Is is a smart, absorbing, and beautifully disquieting collection of songs that could have come from no one but Daniel Lanois. To attempt a film and an album of this scope requires more than a passing knowledge of technology and music theory. Here Lanois succeeds in transforming deep personal feelings into profound musical experiences.
Tracks: Chest Of Drawers; Where Will I Be; Here Is What Is; Not Fighting Anymore; Beauty; Blue Bus; Lovechild; Harry; Bells of Oaxaca; This May Be The Last Time; Smoke #6; I Like That; Duo Glide; Bladesteel; Moondog; Sacred And Secular; Joy; Luna Samba.
Personnel: Daniel Lanois, Brian Blade, Garth Hudson, Brady Blade Sr., Tony Garnier, Jim Wilson, Marcus Blake, Steven Nistor, Daryl Johnson, Ada Small, Shawn Stroope, Tony Mangurian, Willie Green, Aaron Embry.