INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Wire NOVEMBER 2003 - by Louise Gray
BRIAN ENO: CURIOSITIES VOLUME 1
It's just a supposition, but if Brian Eno is under pressure to present a new unitary theory with each new album, then considering there are few artists more prolific than he, it means one hell of a strain on his theory banks. But in Curiosities, Eno - or more precisely, his technical assistant Marlon Weyeneth - has found a way round this.
The first of a series, Curiosities consists of fifteen outtakes, oddities and DATs found in the dark recesses of the studio. It only supplies brief session details for one track, Manila Envelope, dating from the now unobtainable 1994 CDROM, Headcandy, and featuring the distinctive guitars of Robert Fripp. However, a Web search reveals the following: Ambient Savage is the only surviving example of Eno's Afro Ambient period; Castro Boxer was conceived as part of an unrealised project called Unsuccessful Boxers; Circus Mathematics once belonged to something called Mathematical Piano Music. With each piece serving as a delicious hint of what might have been, Curiosities is a series of sketches, miscellaneous lines of thought and hidden intentions.
Yet it doesn't play as a series of disconnected events, despite its abundance of surprises. More than one title has enough of a sexual content, so by the time you get to the one-hander melody of My Little Organ, it can't help but raise a smirk. Select A Bonk, meanwhile, pulses with malevolent hissing beats and rattlesnake shakes, over which a majestic synth line is added. As epic as the best of '80s House, it's simple and effective, and it makes you hold your head up.
That's not say Eno has lost his interest in drones - Castro Haze is a good example - although sometimes his ideas are just plain nutty. Work/Wank sounds like a duck being bounced on bedsprings. But sadly you don't hear much of Eno's voice beyond a chopped up segment, set to a clipclop rhythm, on Draw One Animal, more's the pity, as the resonant Eno tones that added a rich and passing colour to Robert Wyatt's latest, Cuckooland, offer a recent reminder of the joy of Eno singing. If you're reading, Brian, please sing a little song for me.