INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Guardian APRIL 27, 2018 - by John Lewis
CONTEMPORARY ALBUM OF THE MONTH - BRIAN ENO: MUSIC FOR INSTALLATIONS
For those of us who grew up being thrilled by Brian Eno's sonic innovations, the great man seemed to have lost his lustre around a decade ago. When not providing big, bland, blustery, stadium-rock productions for Coldplay and U2, he was collaborating with such cutting-edge mavericks as Andrea Corr, Jools Holland, Natalie Imbruglia, Belinda Carlisle and Dido. His "song-based" albums, both solo and with the likes of David Byrne, were becoming tasteful, characterless and anaemic. The wonderfully perverse producer-conceptualist who had transformed Bowie, invented ambient music and shaped No Wave seemed to have turned into a rather dull hack.
However, it turns out that Eno never actually stopped making interesting ambient records - it's just that they only got played at conceptual art exhibitions. This six-CD set assembles some of them: from a discordant, doom-laden, twenty-minute dronefest for a gallery in Venice in 1985 to a glittering twenty-one-minute soundscape recorded for an installation in Kazakhstan last year.
This might be music that is superficially clean and minimal but, at its best, you'll hear the toil and effort underneath the seemingly frictionless surfaces - like looking at the surface of a geometric Malevich or Mondrian painting and seeing the thick, irregular, textured layers of oil on canvas. Lightness, composed for a St Petersburg museum in 1997, is an appealing series of soft, dissonant but slowly resolving drones and swooping sounds. 77 Million Paintings, a forty-four-minute piece designed for a 2006 Tokyo exhibition, is an immersive mix of gamelan bell tones and heavily treated vocals. The Making Space CD from 2010, recorded with guitarist Leo Abrahams, sometimes veers close to blandness, but tracks such as Light Legs (featuring an endlessly arpeggiated glockenspiel-like sound) and the haunting Hopeful Timean Intersect are exquisite.
Sometimes the laziness resurfaces. Thanks to the apps that Eno himself helped to develop, you can now create this kind of ambient music on your phone, with algorithms turning your choices into generative soundscapes. Some of these pieces, particularly the rather lazy-sounding final CD, Music For Future Installations, sound as if they were made on an iPhone and took less time to write than they do to listen to.