Saturday, January 30, 2010

Discography: Brian Eno

My next discography is going to be an interesting one. Brian Eno has a doppelganger career as both a glam/avant rock musician and then slowly transitioning into the world of Ambient music. It's also going to be somewhat incomplete as most of this will be Eno and not any of his collaborations (with the likes of Harold Budd, John Cale and David Byrne as well as his two album stint with Roxy Music.) Sadly some of Eno's other Ambient albums are harder to come by, but alas I feel as if this will be pretty complete regardless of this. So this is more or less a half discography spanning from 1974's Here Come The Warm Jets to 1983's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks.

Here Come the Warm Jets
(1974) Brian Eno's first solo record after departing Roxy Music as well as after his experimental work with Robert Fripp on (No Pussyfooting), Eno teamed up with countless musicians for Here Come the Warm Jets. Surprisingly recorded in 12 days, the album is filled with frenzied guitars, bombastic lyrical wordplay and one of the best guitar solos you'll ever hear. The record is about as close to glam rock as any in Eno's career. Songs like "Needles in the Camel's Eye" and "Cindy Tells Me" are spacey rockers chock full of wonderful sounds. The stellar track, and easily Eno's best of the more straightforward rock era, "Baby's On Fire" has easily one of the best guitar solos care of King Crimson's Robert Fripp. It's a searing track that is filled with sound. Fripp's guitar takes over and brings it to a new height. Warm Jets may be one of Eno's more standard albums in the sense of straight rock music, but even in that case it's still out there and ahead of it's time. Eno would have a different take on what pop music could be a few albums later, but even here he juxtaposes what his experiences with Roxy Music were like.

Key Tacks: "Needles in the Camel's Eye", "Baby's On Fire", "Cindy Tells Me", "On Some Faraway Beach", "Blank Frank"

Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974) In the same year, Eno would progress his sound immensely from the awesome Here Come the Warm Jets to the strangely sparse yet utterly captivating Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy.) Although this album still boasts a rock sound, it's almost a punk rock statement to release music as choppy and strange as what appears on the album. A song like the rollicking "Third Uncle" or the gloomy and foreboding "The Fat Lady of Limbourg" are polar opposites and strangely distant. The art rock takes on forms like "Burning Airlines Gives You So Much More", a wonderful pop track as well as the quirky "China My China" with it's typewriter solo. All in all, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) seems to be a leap forward in some respects even if it's a small step.

Key Tracks: "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More", "Fat Lady of Limbourg", "China My China", "Third Uncle"

Another Green World (1975) Just another few months after Taking Tiger Mountain, Eno released easily one of his best records in Another Green World. Gone are the glam rock trappings and only five songs have lyrics and vocals. This record is the first indication that Brian Eno was going to take his music into a new direction. The spaced out expansion of his music is a divergent turn from the previous years two records. Songs like "St. Elmo's Fire" and "I'll Come Running" is as close as a pop song as you'll get here. Both are way more spaced out than the more hard hitting tracks from Here Come the Warm Jets or the strange and stark songs from Tiger Mountain. Instead these tunes are floating in the ether. "The Big Ship" slowly comes in witha wave of guitars that sound like the music of another world. "In Dark Trees" plays up more paranoia in it's sound as an interesting arrangement of guitars and strange bleeping percussion ripples in and out. All of these emotions are felt through the music and not through the lyrics. It's in this that Brian Eno would really find his home as Another Green World is the first sign of his ambient career to come.

Key Tracks: "Sky Saw", "The Big Ship", "St. Elmo's Fire", "In Dark Trees", "Golden Hours", "Becalmed", "Everything Merges With The Night"

Discreet Music (1975) Again with two albums in one year (not including Evening Star with Robert Fripp), Discreet Music is the first fully fledged piece of ambient work that Eno undertook. The titular track is one whole side of the record and is an experimental tape loop. For a better, detailed description, go here. The sounds of the synthesizer loop over each other and create different sounding passages that are just overlapping threads of sound. It's intention is best used for meditation, background music or what I prefer to call a "dream machine." It's calming and ambient and in that respect, it's perfect for all sorts of activities to fill in the dead air of silence with something more engaging. The second half of the record is variations on Canon in D Major by Pachelbel. These are intriguing deconstructions, but for the most part the best thing of Discreet Music is the single side track. The album in that sense is more of an interesting experiment and observation on the deconstruction of music.

Key Track: "Discreet Music"

Before and After Science (1977) Eno's last album with lyrics for some time, Before and After Science has more conventional tunes, but it's a perfect place to see how Eno's ambient sound would meld with more conventional pop tunes, all found on the second half of the record. The first half picks up the speed more so than the previous two albums with the anagram rocker "King Lead Hat" and the silly yet entirely engaging and catchy "Backwater." Where the album really shines is in it's spacey and brooding second half. Each song has an ethereal element to it, bringing his ambient sound and blending it perfectly with conventional songs. "Julie With..." is a perfect track that slowly sways in with its delicate guitar and piano as one of Eno's best vocal performances then gently comes into view. "By This River" is a deeply saddening track giving the feeling of utter and complete stagnation. The stellar outing is "Spider & I" which has some of the most beautifully stark and simplistic, yet emotionally captivating music and lyrics that Eno has ever captured. It's all dreamy and hazy and as with many of the songs on the second half, slowly comes in and fades back out with utter beauty. It's easily Eno's perfect record.

Ket Tracks: A masterpiece is a masterpiece. Not sure if I can say any tracks aren't great.

Music For Airports (1978) As Before and After Science ended Eno's career with more conventional music, he started his ambient career off on the right foot. It may be the most unbearable record if you try to approach it as conventional music. Instead, it's best treated as a meditation piece or music you use to study to. The tracks are divided up into numbers without titles and each piece, much like Discreet Music, the music is looped tapes of synths, pianos, guitars or vocals for each track that seem like pre-written songs, but it's all just as it happens. The vocal track "2/1" is just a series of 20 second loops, each a different length, repeated. The sound is utterly breathtaking and dynamic. It sounds as if they interact with each other but in reality it's just a loop. The best of these tracks is the 16 minute "1/1" with it's simple piano slowly creating something beautiful.

Key Tracks: "1/1", "2/1"

Music For Films (1978) Although Music for Films works less on an album level then other ambient records, it is worth noting that unlike both Discreet Music and Music for Airports, the music is not just looped material but actual musicians working on the pieces of music. An all star line up including John Cale, Phil Collins and Robert Fripp are all in tow and each track has it's own idea. The tracks are meant to be the score to "imaginary films" and are soundscapes that could easily be used as a soundtrack. Some songs did go on to be in films, such as "Slow Water" which utilizes Fripp's sonic guitar tones. It's more or less an intriguing selection of songs, but as a whole it pales in comparison to much of the other prominent Eno ambient recordings you could get. I find myself going back to this record the least.

Key Tracks: "Slow Water", "There is Nobody", "Quartz", "Patrolling Wire Borders"

Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983) Although there were other ambient albums in between this and '78's Music for Films, those were all collaborations and also extremely hard to find. That being said, someday I will update this section with Discography: Brian Eno and Various Collaborations. Anyway, of all the ambient records, Apollo is by far the best. It contains some of Eno's finest moments and has been used in several films, namely the documentary For All Mankind. It has several different styles involved on the record ranging from the stark and minimalistic "Stars", the almost ambient-country feel of tracks like "Weightless" and the synthesizer driven and utterly heartbreaking "An Ending (Ascent)." This dynamic calls for a little more variety on the album and also opens up the lanes for some amazing guitar work care of Daniel Lanois. A song like "Deep Blue Day" is ever grateful for Daniel Lanois' amazing guitar flourishes. This being the best of Eno's ambient albums, if this type of music is something that you are into, then this would be the best place to start.

Key Tracks: "An Ending (Ascent)", "Deep Blue Day", "Stars", "Always Returning", "Spirits Drifting", "Silver Morning"

That's all for now. There are many more Eno albums, some I've heard some I can't find. But this is more of a part one. Someday down the line I will hunt all of these records down.

1 comment:

radiocitizen said...

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