Synapse SUMMER 1979 - by Franc Gavin


Although it is apparent that this LP is not a follow-up in line of direct succession to Before And After Science (being a series of unused tracks from as far back as '75), it is also obvious that it is a cohesive work unto itself. It is also nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful.

The aegis of Music For Films itself is a seeming refinement of that intent which ran thread-like through Another Green World - that being a tropistic catalogue of mood. Or Mood. Fleeting whispers of vague sensation, pleasantly indeterminate, dance across the screen of this film for the ears, aural imagery as poignant as extras standing in the rain-soaked pathway of some London garden cut from a middle-Hitchcock film. You wonder what their story is.

The tracks themselves: had Another Green World been a double-LP, this might have been the other disc; save that there are no vocals. Side one opens (there are nine tracks per side) with a bit of robotoid, gunmetal blue synthi that smacks both of No One Receiving. It carries that chiming, pulsating aquatic chug to it that makes one believe Eno has a stethoscope that he occasionally places against the Heart of the World, checking all the different rhythms to find out that it isn't yet completely broken, only transfigured. It carries the rather impersonal title of M386; yet it is just an intro, much more the album's hard outer casing than anything else.

The bulk of the eighteen tracks found on this interim collection cast the wavering chiaroscuro of assorted moods; the instrumental ambience making this perhaps the most eclectic collection since Another Green World. Like that LP, many of the bands do a slow fade-in/fade-out, as if only a glimpse was being provided of something that had always been going on, and always would go on.

Picture walking down a long stretch of hallway with many doors on either side, each labelled with a different slightly cryptic, vaguely sinister symbol. Open one door and you see a man sitting naked on a Persian rug playing dominoes. A window with the curtains drawn back tells you it is raining. They don't appear to notice you. Close the door. Skip the next one. Handball court? Up in the bleachers a small tour-group of German shepherds in pinstripe suits are watching intently. One is collecting bets in his tweed cap. No one is on the court.

Trot on down past three more - the situation is growing serious by this time. Door opens and you feel a sudden blast of dry, invigorating heat. Wide open spaces? A red-rock desert? Opening the door a mite further you realise it leads to an immeasurable expanse of arid wasteland. The sky is a blazing ochre, streaked with long swathes of deepening blue, great awful, wonderful constellations. Far off on the horizon small clouds of dirt and gravel shoot up in the air as one track vehicle, the merest speck on the skyline, hotly pursues another. The faint firecracker spatter of distant automatic weapons on full. You slam the door, your heart racing, lean up against it, beads of perspiration breaking out on your forehead. Jesus H. Christ!

But you go on looking - it never ceases to amaze - or pull you back. Each time the door opens the same thing is happening. Only each time you linger a bit longer - you see a little bit more. You perceive the situation a little bit better in the twittering microseconds of enlightenment allotted to each room - each particle of each layer of each dimension adds a new hint about its successor. With repeated access to each dimensional "gate" it all becomes more apparent.

Providing added scenario are the usual Eno-cohorts: Fripp, Phil Collins, Paul Rudolph, John Cale, Fred Frith, Bill MacCormick, et al. But the variegated moods come from a stretch that rides all the way from three years on - in which it is possible to recognise Brian Eno's evolution as a careful aural expressionist, striving for the pure picture, the strong balanced with the light, torrent in counterpoint to drizzle.

Surprisingly in the breakdown, the audio complexes are deceptively simple - there are no instruments unfamiliar. The basic fabric of the AKS and CS80 are still nubbly-familiar to the touch. What delights is the continuous and ingratiating series of portraits purveyed by a compulsive creator. Environments and collages of environments which mutate with added attention. A hallway to remember. And as Ernest Hemingway once said, "Fuck oblivion."