Here Is What Is

The majority of significant music producers have been behind-the-scenes craftsmen, content to express themselves by way of the featured artists they collaborate with. Daniel Lanois doesn?t fit that mold. A world-class studio wizard, he?s helped guide to fruition such iconic albums as Peter Gabriel?s So and Bob Dylan?s Time Out of Mind, as well as The Joshua Tree by U2, a band he?s continued to work with 20 years on. But Lanois is also his own man: an exceptionally talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, and recording artist. His new Here Is What Is arrives as both an album and a filmed documentary (both separately available). Lanois?s songs, as suggestively poetic as they might be, seem inseparable from his signature studio craft. Constructing a sonic environment that's equally rootsy and ethereal, Lanois conjures up spooky music that?s hard to shake off. His guitar playing -- particularly his exquisite work on the pedal steel guitar -- speaks more eloquently and effectively than his somewhat limited vocalizing. Interspersed spoken comments (drawn from the film) from frequent Lanois cohort Brian Eno act mainly as come-ons to the worthy documentary. Here Is What Is, the film, traces Lanois?s international wanderings as he constructs the album and squires projects with U2 and Sin‚ad O?Connor. Refreshingly free of self-aggrandizement, the documentary may be most intriguing for its focus on Lanois?s trusted collaborators, particularly the accomplished drummer Brian Blade and Eno, in his role as roving philosopher. And each time the camera settles on the studio savant and his pedal steel, cinematic and musical joy are guaranteed. -

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."