The Second Disc DECEMBER 10, 2014 - by Joe Marchese


In a career spanning five decades, Brian Eno has refused to be pigeonholed. The ambient music pioneer and electronic explorer has produced albums for David Bowie, U2 and Paul Simon, played in Roxy Music, collaborated with everyone from Belinda Carlisle to David Byrne, composed film and television soundtracks, and maintained a solo career since 1974. His varied body of work as writer, musician, producer and artist has embraced experimentalism and pushed the limits of conventional rock. Now, four of his most overlooked albums first released between 1992 and 1997, have been reissued by All Saints Records in lavish 2-CD editions each containing a full bonus disc of previously unheard material.

1992's Nerve Net, originally released on Opal/Warner Bros., marked Eno's return to solo recording for the first time since 1985's Thursday Afternoon, which consisted of a single, sixty-minute track. (Wrong Way Up, with John Cale, came in between the two releases in 1990.) In the original liner notes reprinted in the new reissue, Eno details that "this record draws on jazz, funk, rap, rock, pop, ambient and 'world music'," adding, "Did I leave anything out" He described the amalgamation of those styles as yielding a record that's "none of those things but a weird and self-contradictory mess - and a mess that I love, like paella, everything's in there somewhere!" Robert Fripp, John Paul Jones and Benmont Tench were among the notable names who joined Eno for this hypnotic, largely instrumental musical adventure. What fans at the time didn't know that was Nerve Net should have been Eno's second solo release of the 1990s, not the first. In 1991, he had recorded an album to be entitled My Squelchy Life, but it was, well, squelched. A couple of tracks were reworked for Nerve Net, but this reissue presents the original proposed album in full for the first time. Fractal Zoom and Ali Click were released in a variety of remixes, but none of those are included on this new set. Arun Chakraverty has remastered Nerve Net, and Kevin Metcalfe at Soundmasters has mastered My Squelchy Life.

Eno's follow-up, The Shutov Assembly, was dedicated to his friend, the Russian artist Sergei Shutov. The 1992 Opal/Warner release consisted of ten ambient tracks, all named for audiovisual art installations created by Eno. Shutov, who had found inspiration in Eno's music, had difficulty obtaining it in Soviet Russia, so Eno put together a "mix tape" of unreleased pieces for his friend to hear. That tape became the basis of The Shutov Assembly. The various pieces were recorded between 1985 and 1990 and named after the sites in which the installations were originally seen (festivals, galleries, etc.). The expanded The Shutov Assembly features a second disc of seven more pieces, all of which date from the same 1985-1990 period as the core album, and the booklet contains excerpts from a discussion between Eno and critic John Rockwell reflecting on music, art, technology, their intersection, and other wide-ranging topics. Tony Cousins at Townhouse has remastered Disc One, while Kevin Metcalfe has handled Disc Two.

Neroli, from 1993 on All Saints Records, returned to the single-track format of Thursday Afternoon. The purely instrumental "mood music" album took its name from the sensual oil derived from the flowers of the Seville orange, and was conceived with the concept of perfume and fragrance. In his essay entitled The Future Will Be Like Perfume, reprinted in the liner notes, Eno explains some of the roots of his musical inspiration. A 1989 interview with John Schaefer in which he discusses perfume is also included. Neroli has been used as music for therapy, and reportedly also in childbirth wards, due to its calming, "chill" atmosphere. It has been joined by another hour-long ambient work, New Space Music, on the second disc of this expanded edition. Neroli has been mastered by Nimbus and Chop 'Em Out, while mastering for the bonus CD is by Kevin Metcalfe.

1995 brought a collaboration between Eno and Jah Wobble of Public Image Ltd., Spinner, as well as Original Soundtracks 1, a side project with his friends in U2 under the name of Passengers. In 1997, he released another solo ambient album on All Saints, The Drop. Taking his trademark ambient soundscapes to another level he deemed "drop" music, Eno incorporated more of a beat, more notes and what could be described as more urgency. He described the sound of The Drop as a kind of jazz from an alien perspective, and took cues (described in a BBC World Service interview reprinted in the booklet) from both the long melody lines of fusion's Mahavishnu Orchestra and the percussive bass of Fela Kuti and African music. (Two other articles round out the package.) Though the three bonus tracks originally included on a Japanese bonus disc have not been retained, this reissue of The Drop adds nine tracks on its bonus CD representing alternate mixes and rare recordings from Eno's archives. These pieces were previously collected as a limited edition (one thousand units) record to accompany 77 Million - an audio visual installation by Brian Eno at La Foret Museum in Harajuku, Japan. This marks the first wide release of the compilation.

Brian Eno continues to actively create music in both the ambient and rock genres, and everywhere in between; recent collaborations have taken place with Coldplay, James Blake, Owen Pallett and Fela Kuti's son Seun. These four new reissues, all of which are housed in attractive casebound book-style presentations, capture some of his most striking and underrated work of the 1990s. They're all available now from All Saints Records, and can be ordered at the links below.

NERVE NET CD 1: Fractal Zoom / Wire Shock / What Actually Happened? / Pierre in Mist / My Squelchy Life / Juju Space Jazz / The Roil, The Choke / Ali Click / Distributed Being / Web / Web (Lascaux Mix) / Decentre / CD 2: I Fall Up / The Harness / My Squelchy Life / Tutti Forgetti / Stiff / Some Words / Juju Space Jazz / Under / Everybody's Mother / Little Apricot / Over

THE SHUTOV ASSEMBLY CD 1: Triennale / Alhondiga / Markgraph / Lanzarote / Francisco / Riverside / Innocenti / Stefelijk / Ikebukuro / Cavallino / CD 2: Eastern Cities / Empty Platform / Big Slow Arabs / Storm / Rendition / Prague / Alhondiga Variation

NEROLI CD 1: Neroli / CD 2: New Space Music

The DROP CD 1: Slip, Dip / But If / Belgian Drop / Cornered / Block Drop / Out/Out / Swanky / Coasters / Blissed / M.C. Organ / Boomcubist / Hazard / Rayonism / Dutch Blur / Back Clack / Dear World / Iced World / CD 2: Never Stomp / System Piano / Bonk 12 / Luxor Night Car / Targa Summer / Cold / Little Slicer / Surf Birds / Targa