INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Trouser Press AUGUST 1982 - by Robert Payes
BRIAN ENO - AMBIENT 4: ON LAND
It looks like Brian Eno has given up pop for good (Bush Of Ghosts notwithstanding). Too had. The cheerful insanity or absurd lyrics and astounding sounds that characterized Baby's On Fire or Seven Deadly Finns (to name but two) was a welcome alternative to the drivel that passes for the hit parade today. Fortunately, On Land proves his experimental streak can produce wonders of an entirely different flavor.
Although labeled the fourth in the "Ambient Music" canon, the antecedent for On Land is Music For Films rather than Discreet Music or the earlier Ambients. Just as that collection of soundtrack fragments often suggested accompanying films, so the eight piece here evoke times and places both real and imagined. Most of the track are built around droning chords rather than melodies, but the album succeeds because it transcends "mere" musicality.
Synthesizers play only a small role. Eno blends them with conventional instruments (bass, piano, Jon Hassell's breathy trumpet), found objects (chains and rocks) and environmental recordings (frogs, crickets etc.), usually warping the mixture beyond recognition. Only Tal Coat is obviously synth-dominated: interestingly enough, it's the least effective track.
Pete Townshend once described music as a pill you take that makes you fly. Eno's pills not only do that, they also set you down in a totally different locale and let you sightsee a bit. Headphone listening is strongly recommended for On Land. The album can function as background music, but the nature of the pieces behooves you to employ them as the alternative environments they are.