The Wire OCTOBER 1995 - by Rob Young


So here they are in tandem, the two towering harbingers of post-punk and Ambient musics that, fifteen years ago, were rattling each others' cages. That they've 'come together' for Spinner doesn't seem as surprising as it might once have done (in fact it's not so much a studio collaboration as a game of 'Beetle' with DATs); the fun is in detecting which musical currency gets the upper hand in the trade-off. There's also the small matter that these days both Eno and Wobble come packaged with discrete all-in wisdoms: Wobble's head expanded by Eastern promise; the Enokopf engrossed in taking Cyber Mountain by utilitarian artesan strategies. It's fair to say at this point that Spinner is by a long throw the best of these two records, but only because some chemistry at work during the period of its fermentation has given it the mystery and enchantment of an unfamiliar food.

Heaven & Earth is a really strange record as many if not more Koyaanisqatsi-style scene-changes as the two previous Invaders Of The Heart albums; better integrated 'original' sources (i.e. Chinese shengs, Turkish strings, ouds, ney flutes, Balinese bells); some neck-ricking rhythms courtesy of Can's Jaki Uebezeit, and that Wobblian guilelessness that makes his music convincing but hard to ingest Heaven & Earth is actually a profoundly European album. Gone To Croatan, with its Sam Riversish sax, sounds like a '70s ECM supergroup trying to please a Glastonbury crowd; Hit Me we could have done without: fixed-grin grooving tattooed with turntable scratching that recalls Yellowjackets testcard fusion. Whatever Dying Over Europe commemorates, perhaps most of all it's a lament for the Balkan territories that have wound up so fixated on their own geohistoncal position that they can't share in the great diversity and spiritual unity proselytised by the mighty Jah.

Spinner's cover, with its momentarily diverting A/V slippage (Spinner/spanner), is hardly preparation for the contents. Despite/because of the temporal displacement inherent in its creation, the album is more exotic, more alien, than the global piperade cooked up by the Real World brotherhood. It's like entering a Forbidden City where Eno, the Last Emperor of Ambient, can be found toying with synthesizers and treatments too precious to be allowed out into the wider world. Yet for all the hypercard-sharping on the table here (check the technique on Transmitter And Trumpet), neither Eno nor Wobble (on bass and drums) and accomplices (Liebezeit again, Mark Ferda, Justin Adams, Sussan Deyhim) manage to over-egg the omelette.

If Spinner grates at first, it's because it takes a little time for Wobble to find the right molecular structure to bind on to the sheared metal edge of Eno's music, originally destined for Derek Jarman's Glitterbug movie. But after a few Spins, bearings lubricate and the whole mechanism trues up into gear. Spinner's sheets of snare and warty bass, and the glistering mystery track hidden at CD's end, share a restlessness that defies the warm and bouncy weather-systems which swept across the face of this year's Electronica model. Whatever partnership Eno embarks on, the results rarely sound like mutual congratulation; this intoxicating release seeds a future in which the interface between musician and studio becomes harder to dismantle.