INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Mojo JULY 2019 - by Martin Aston
ONE SMALL STEP, ONE GIANT LEAP AND ONE EXPANDED EDITION OF BRIAN ENO'S AMBIENT CLASSIC APOLLO
From Bowie to Hawkwind to Sun Ra to Tangerine Dream and beyond - musicians love the possibilities of outer space. One essential album in the off-world canon is Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. This 1983 LP was helmed by the master and inventor of atmospheric ambience, Brian Eno, with his composer brother Roger and new studio buddy, Canadian producer Daniel Lanois, as a soundtrack for director Al Reinhart's documentary of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing. Fittingly, for the fiftieth anniversary of man's first steps on the moon on July 20, 1969, the album has been remastered and expanded. It now comes with a second CD of all-new songs created by the three in the same spirit, and is titled For All Mankind after Reinhart's 1989 re-cut of his original '83 documentary.
"Brian asked if any tracks were left from the original session, and I couldn't find anything," explains Lanois. "In any case, it was more fun to make new stuff." While the first album had been birthed at Lanois' studio in Hamilton, Ontario, the new tracks were created via digital files. "Roger and I sent three tracks each," says Lanois, "and Brian then weirded everything. The tracks were so manipulated, I couldn't see myself in them any more: just how I like it! I wish we'd huddled again in the same room, with all the micro-negotiations that happen, but other things came into place instead."
What the tracks, old and new, capture is, "a floating feeling," Lanois reflects. Roger characterises it as "Weightlessness, which instantly leads you away from anything resembling a beat and into nebulous areas. It limits your palate beautifully. One memorable image in the film was a bright white-blue moon, and as the rocket approached, it got much darker, and you realised the moon was above you. That feeling of immensity was a gift. You just had to accentuate the majesty."
But Lanois downplays the often awe-inspiring film. "Rather than the moon footage, what about the moons in our heads?" he demands. "You're talking about three crazy motherfuckers, bursting at the seams to make some kind of masterpiece. A crazy French Canadian; Roger, a small-time guy with a big brain; and Brian, who's just come off [Talking Heads'] Remain In Light in New York. That's what we should be talking about."
The intensity of the session was offset by high jinks. Roger - a classical music student making his first recording - was met off the plane by a driver and two characters, "weird-looking, like skag-heads," he recalls. "When one of them kept sniffing and his moustache kept moving I realised it was my brother and Danny in disguise. I remember lots of laughing, proper tears, and parties. But we also wrote some exquisite music."
"Brian's written a beautiful essay for the new record," adds Lanois. "I could talk about the steel guitar I played, but these are modern times. In 1969, the Earth looked so beautiful from space, but what's happening to it now? Can you see the plastic city floating in the ocean? How's China looking? Brian's essay is every bit as important as the music." Martin Aston