Taking a Ride to Another World With Eno and U2

PASSENGERS, “Original Soundtracks 1"; Island (*** 1/2)

Bono’s voice is the most recognizable and marketable feature of this unassuming yet mesmerizing collaboration between Brian Eno and U2, and Luciano Pavarotti’s unlikely guest appearance is the catchiest gimmick. But Eno’s trademark aesthetics are at center stage.

A devotion to instinct and chance give his atmospheric experiments an uncommon warmth--his 1975 “Another Green World” still sounds miles ahead of such descendants as the Orb and Orbital, and some of the intervening era’s most striking pop music has come via his employment by David Bowie, the Talking Heads and U2.

Ostensibly 14 pieces designed to accompany disparate film and theater presentations, “Soundtracks” works as a flowing whole, characterized by sheets of gentle electronic sounds and an understated, reptilian pulse, accented with delicate, bell-like sounds or haunting sonic ghosts. Nothing, not even Pavarotti’s soaring appearance on “Miss Sarajevo” nor Bono’s gruff love-hate ode to the King on “Elvis Ate America,” disrupts that flow.


But within it, gems reveal themselves subtly and affectingly: “Your Blue Room,” sporting a soulful Bono falsetto, would have been at home on any U2 album since “The Joshua Tree,” while “Ito Okashi,” with guest singer Hori’s lovely voice set among flitting celestial sounds, is a stunning piece of modern global art music.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).