INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Times JULY 19, 2019 - by Will Hodgkinson
BRIAN ENO - APOLLO: ATMOSPHERES & SOUNDTRACKS
An undimmed celestial vision
Depending on your age and inclination, you will know Brian Eno as the cross-dressing boffin of Roxy Music, the sardonic oddball of mid-'70s cult appeal, the shiny-pated pioneer of ambient music beloved of serious people in interesting eyewear or the god-like sage brought in by Coldplay and U2 to guide them towards greatness. As it turns out, Eno also wrote a lot of music that seeped into the public consciousness via countless film and television soundtracks. Now one of his most widely used pieces returns, with a whole album's worth of new material, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing.
Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks was written by Eno in 1983 with help from his brother, Roger, and the producer/guitarist Daniel Lanois as the soundtrack to a documentary on the Apollo 11 mission. The music teeters accordingly between calm and wonder. An Ending (Ascent) evokes a meditative sort of awe, which is presumably why it featured in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. Drift does indeed drift with weightless ease, eschewing traditional elements such as rhythm or melody for a single sustained note, and a very pleasant note at that. The album also includes guitarled, country-tinged pieces that could have come from a western soundtrack, which is where it gets really interesting.
Silver Morning is made up of one long reverberating guitar solo from Lanois, and it makes you think of the moon's surface as the celestial equivalent of Joshua Tree, Death Valley or any of those other rock-strewn plains in cowboy movies. Deep Blue Day, which featured on the soundtrack to Trainspotting, is ambient country music. Weightless, with its echoing guitars and celestial synthesizers, manages to be downhome and otherworldly.
The second album, For All Mankind, reunites Brian and Roger Eno with Lanois and continues in a similar vein, but doesn't sound dated because there still isn't much else out there to compare to it. There are a few subtle developments - there is even something approaching a beat on The End Of A Thin Cord - but for the most part Eno sticks to his core style of stately, semi-classical minimalism with a touch of that western twang to stop it from getting boring.
Fifty years on, the moon landing still has such a hold on the public imagination that there is an entire subculture built around people claiming it never happened. The solace, beauty and awe in the music it inspired suggests otherwise.