Robert Plant has characterized the music he makes with his new backing band, The Sensational Space Shifters, as "country and eastern." It's a cheeky bit of stylistic recasting, but if anything, it doesn't go far enough in describing the wide scope of the rock legend's latest album, his 10th solo LP and the first backed by the Shifters. Lullaby and ... The Ceaseless Roar (released Sept. 8 on Nonesuch) has plenty of his Grammy-winning blend of rock, pop and folk, but also Afrobeat, desert blues and dub. There are guitars, basses and drums, but also kologos, bendirs, ritis and sampled loops. The 65-year-old grand-dad, who recently relocated back to his native West Midlands in England after several years in the southern United States, spoke from his home about working with his new band, the current spate of reissues from his old one -- Led Zeppelin -- and how his present musical state of mind informs the songs of his past.
There is a lot of sonic information within the music on Lullaby and ... The Ceaseless Roar, yet the sound is quite uncluttered. Is that a difficult balance to achieve?
That's a very good observation, and in fact it's not difficult. Onstage with the band it's a bit of a bum fight, but with the record I was convinced that we must make these songs into songs, not just extravaganzas of otherworldly music. There's a notion of letting one sound -- a lute, a sample -- predict the whole movement of what we're doing in a tune, but we keep everybody on the same page. At the same bar. In the same network, if you like.