Monday, March 30, 2009

Music Library: Brian Eno (+ Bert Jansch and Bob Mould)

Brian Eno:

Or, rather, Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, as some know him. Not me, mind you. Just some. Anyway, Brian Eno is one of the smartest and most creative people working in rock music (and that's a term that doesn't apply to most of his output, but I don't know what else to call his background). The fact that Eno is barely a musician hasn't stopped him from redefining the rules about music and the way that people experience it. He's less a musician than a sculptor, really. I mean, his job in Roxy Music was to modify the sound while the band was making it. He was essentially a producer, engineer, and re-mixer who was part of the band onstage. Rock music does not typically have guys like him, outside of anomalies like Martin Swope (and now Bob Weston) of Mission of Burma. Hip-hop, on the other hand, has guys like him. And that was only the beginning of his odd-bird career. I haven't gone through my whole collection to confirm, but I think he is the bottom-billed half of a few of his collaborations, so they'll pop up later. In the meantime, here's everything filed under "Brian Eno."

  • Here Come The Warm Jets. My favorite of his albums by less than a hair. Essential for all sentient beings. This one is ostensibly glam-rock, but it's oh so much more.

  • Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). This one's my 2nd-favorite by less than a hair. Sometimes it's my favorite. I wish I could say something meaningful about how great these two albums are, but it's beyond me. I have no words.

  • Another Green World. Eno starts mixing his rock anthems with the peaceful instrumental music that he will soon name "ambient." I should mention that I anxiously await Geeta Dayal's 33 1/3 book on this album.

  • Discreet Music. This one is fascinating. Building on Erik Satie's ideas of "furniture music," which is less a listening experience than a way of creating aural wallpaper, Eno came up with the idea of ambient music while bedridden and listening to an album turned down to the cusp of inaudibility. The title piece is a 30-minute ambient track. The other three works are variations on Pachelbel's Canon in D major (you know, the one that signifies that a wedding is imminent), which are modified by tempo in illuminating ways. Very cool.

  • Before And After Science. Like Another Green World, this one is part rock and part ambient. "King's Lead Hat," an anagram of Talking Heads, is my favorite track, but the rock songs are uniformly fantastic. After this album, it would be 28 years before Eno made another solo album that was song-oriented.

  • Ambient 1: Music for Airports. So incredibly relaxing! This is ambient music as it is meant: a way of subtly modifying one's environment.

  • Music For Films. Soundtracks to imaginary films. Of interest to Richard Thompson fans: Dave Mattacks, who is Thompson's main drummer and the drummer for Fairport Convention, plays on one track, as does Fred Frith.

  • My Life In The Bush of Ghosts [Eno & David Byrne]. This one's a rightfully celebrated masterpiece in which Eno and Byrne create a sort of pan-world electro-funk with samples of music taped from various radio sources. I don't know this for a fact, but I imagine that this is a landmark for artists like MIA, for instance, who have a finger in many different kinds of music. Especially interesting is that today, music like this would be digitally sequenced, but Eno and Byrne used analog equipment, which required an enormous amount of time for trial and error.

  • Ambient 4: On Land. This is the ambient music you play when you want to creep your room out. It's still ambient, but it's dark and unsettling.

  • Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. A collaboration with his brother Roger and the producer Daniel Lanois, Apollo is ambient music as the final frontier. Elements of the music are meant to suggest country music, which reminds the Enos and Lanois of the sound of American individualism and exceptionalism. That's funny!

  • Spinner [Eno and Jah Wobble]. Eno recorded a bunch of instrumental ambient tracks and gave the masters to Jah Wobble to modify as he saw fit. Wobble (who's probably best known to U.S. audiences for playing bass in Public Image Limited) added rock and dub elements to the music. Of special interest to Can fans: Jaki Liebezeit is one of the drummers on the album.

  • Textures. This was a finding from the world wide web. Textures was never commercially released, being instead marketed to filmmakers for use as background music.

  • Wrong Way Up [Eno & John Cale]. Nowhere near as strong as either artist's albums from the early to mid 70s, this album still has some good performances in its favor. I really like the cover of the old soul classic "You Don't Miss Your Water."


Bert Jansch - It Don't Bother Me. Early album from the Brit-Folk master much in the same vein as his self-titled debut, which I reviewed three hundred years ago here on this very same blog, back when it was shouted in obscure villages by tongueless town cryers.

Bob Mould - Bob Mould and The Last Dog And Pony Show. A gift from a friend after I mentioned that I ought to pick up some later Bob Mould albums. They're pretty good! But not as good as his first two solo albums or his Sugar albums. And not even close to the Husker Du albums. All of which makes me sound ungrateful, doesn't it? Sorry! I do like them.


Carnatic music 3:48 AM, April 09, 2009  

Cool blog.

Anonymous 10:39 AM, June 14, 2010  

You have to get the re-release to get the bonus cuts. "Miss Your Water" isn't on the original CD.

And some think it one of both Cale and Eno's best albums. I'm kind of in the middle.

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