INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Prog DECEMBER 2018 - by Kris Needs
BRIAN ENO: DISCREET MUSIC / MUSIC FOR FILMS / AMBIENT 1: MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS / ON LAND
Genre-naming chillout pioneer hiked back to wax, deluxe-style.
Sashaying into the '70s as Roxy Music's glam-peacock synth-mauler, Brian Eno already harboured the introverted experimental alter ego he liberated on the instrumental albums he slipped out between art pop sets. Preferring European sonic scientists to garish mainstream recycling, Eno pioneered a quieter deployment of electronics after returning to tape experiments started in 1967 that first manifested as "Frippertronics" with Fripp for 1973's (No Pussyfooting), crystalising a genre that he called "ambient" .
Bedridden after an accident, when Eno couldn't turn the volume up on his eighteenth-century harp music LP, he received his ambient epiphany listening to it ripple against the rain outside "as part of the ambience of the environment". Inspired by Erik Satie's aural background 'Furniture Music' concepts, he left the kids romping noisily in their playpens to let two loops of synthesised melodies unfurl and overlap for thirty minutes to make the gorgeously pastoral Discreet Music. The flip saw the Cockpit Ensemble carving excerpts from the score with sighing strings as modern classical music.
1978's Music For Films presented eighteen shorter pieces designed as soundtracks for imaginary films, bolstered by Fripp, John Cale, Phil Collins, Fred Frith and Dave Mattacks, flaunting styles that informed Bowie's Berlin Trilogy and other things to come on M386, Events In Dense Fog and three evocative sections of Sparrowfall. Heard now, such unearthly cinematic concoctions still resonate in modern prog and electronica, and from soundtracks they've appeared in.
Eno hatched Ambient 1: Music For Airports (first use of the word as title and concept as an entity) while endlessly waiting at Cologne Bonn Airport and becoming irritated by the souldestroying canned clatter, designing four lengthy excursions into ethereal beauty as a sound installation to soften tension. Forty years later, it still works its unique slow-motion magic through minimal synth and piano motifs.
After albums with Harold Budd and Laraaji, 1982's On Land marked the fourth and final Ambient series missive, using found sounds like birds along with remodelling earlier works, bolstered by Jon Hassell's trumpet and Bill Laswell's bass. Having seen his innovations become a new musical language, tracks such as Shadow blueprinted new ones.
These seminal works are remastered at half speed to make 45rpm gatefold double albums, with Abbey Road certificates of authenticity, standing now as quiet visions that helped shape modern music's future, begging the question: what would it have been like without him?