INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Mojo OCTOBER 6, 2008 - by Andrew Male
BRIAN ENO: APOLLO: ATMOSPHERES & SOUNDTRACKS
Twenty five years on, For All Mankind, Al Reinert's documentary about the Apollo space missions remains the definitive record of America's journey to the final frontier. Watching clips of Reinert's spellbinding drift through the tranquil haze of the twentieth century's greatest pipe-dream today, is a profoundly melancholy experience. When Reinert started work on the film in 1982 the Apollo program had already been mothballed for seven years, following the Apollo-Soyuz hands-across-space Test Project in 1975, and America was reeling from the first wave of Reaganomics - inflation, unemployment and an out-of-whack defence budget. Apollo had been ditched for Ares and For All Mankind was a long goodbye to the optimism, innocence and adventure of the space programme. If we seem so much further from that idealism today, it only adds greater weight to Reinert's film and its accompanying soundtrack. Drawn to a documentary that tapped in to the wonder and sadness of the Apollo footage - weightless euphoria on the edge of infinite darkness - at a time when the only hope for space adventure was this - Eno's masterstroke was in identifying a link between the idea of 'the frontier' as a cornerstone of American identity and the knowledge that the astronauts were listening to the country sounds of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens up there. The result was a soundtrack that captured the slow, sad going away of the final frontier with fading memories of Daniel Lanois' pedal steel guitar adrift in an abysmal space of infinite echo and unfathomable wonder. That tracks like An Ending (Ascent) now appear on every other BBC documentary about the loss of the American dream, or soundtrack the hallucinatory nature of the coming apocalypse only underlines the power of Eno's score: a valediction to the American dream that captures the profound beauty and sadness in a twentieth Century civilisation's long, slow fade. Expect to hear it even more in the coming months...