INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Irish Times MAY 23, 2014 - by Brian Boyd
AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY, BRIAN ENO RELEASED A NOT-VERY-GOOD-ALBUM - HALLELUJAH!
Ambient music pioneer, superstar-making producer - the god-like genius of Brian Eno is beyond question, but it's heartening to know that even he can come up with a dud: Someday World, a collaboration with Underworld's Karl Hyde.
One song has got to work pretty hard to link Jeremy Clarkson, Nick Clegg, the Apollo moon walk, an Olympic opening ceremony, any number of videogames, a fair few films, more TV ads than you count, Coldplay and the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
But when this particular four minutes and eighteen seconds of music has been described as "a kind of mesmeric joy not a million miles away from the effects produced by mild doses of hallucinogens" and "having an astonishing psychological resonance" and being "the greatest, most moving piece of music at all time", well, all the heavy lifting has already been done.
Brian Eno's An Ending (Ascent) has been put to work by TV's Top Gear, a Liberal Democrat party political broadcast and the London 2012 games. It's also been used as walk-on music by Coldplay and is now currently getting another outing, this time as the music for a cancer research TV ad appeal.
Eno wrote An Ending (Ascent) in 1983 for the soundtrack album Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. This was heard on a remarkable film called For All Mankind, which featured previously unseen Nasa footage of the Apollo astronauts on the moon. By rights, An Ending (Ascent) should just be another ambient wash of sound, but what gives the track its sonic impact is how the run of chords in a minor key dissolve into each other. It breaks all the rules.
An Ending (Ascent) is the most culturally used piece of music in the modern era, which sits nicely alongside the fact that Eno is also responsible for the most listened-to piece of music - ever. A piece for which he only received a flat fee of $35,000.
In 1995 Microsoft hired Eno to compose a 3.25-second-long piece as its start-up sound on Windows. He remembers the brief asking for "a piece of music that was inspiring, universal, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental and emotional". The adjectives continued to pour out until the last line, which simply read: "Oh, and it can only be three and a quarter seconds long".
As someone who has had his music performed in art galleries, airports and museums, who began with glam-rockers Roxy Music before inventing "ambient" music and going on to turn (as producer) both U2 and Coldplay from million-selling to multi-million-selling bands, Brian Eno is arguably the most important and influential musical figure of his generation.
As it happens, Eno released a new album last week. Someday World, a collaboration with Underworld's Karl Hyde, attracted little fanfare. Mainly because it isn't very good. [Though not according to The Ticket's review, which gave the album four stars - Ed.]
Why all the reviewers have to go around the houses before arriving at this conclusion is instructive. There's plenty of genuflecting to Eno's supreme status and positive- sounding noises before all the but's kick in. The conclusions: "self-indulgent", "repetitive" and "disappointingly lacking in direction" are all cushioned by references to his sublime back catalogue.
But it's not the act's back catalogue that is under review for any new release. Brian Eno released a not very good album last week. That should give hope to any musician.