A long time ago and far away I had a drummer for a roommate, and he had a fabulous record collection. Among other artists such as David Bowie, Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, and others, he introduced me to Brian Eno. Brian made by far the greatest impression. His music spoke to me of other places outside of our own mundane existence. Or as he would put it, ‘Another Green World’, the title of one of his best albums. Brian Eno had no real interest in pop music for himself, although he had a great deal of interest in producing everyone from U2, the Talking Heads, and even Paul Simon. He was more interested in oblique strategies, his title for a way of bypassing the conscious mind by a random selection of ideas printed on cards. This bears some resemblance to William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s cutup technique. Both are ways of introducing randomness which can then inspire your writing, your music, your films. David Lynch has used oblique strategies in his work. Of course, I wonder just how random this all is. The deeper self may direct our seemingly random methods. In Eno’s case, it works brilliantly. His soundscapes have been the inspiration for so many others, such as Moby, and even Trent Reznor’s Ghost series.
He began as a student of ‘serious’ music, experimenting with repeating loops of sound. He then became involved in the world of pop music when he joined Roxy Music, this being his brief fling with glam. After leaving the group in the mid-seventies, he produced a series of solo albums which stand the test of time. Here Come the Warm Jets is both progressive and alternative rock at it’s best. He continued this trend with Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. He took a deceptively simple approach with Another Green World which established his signature sound. Very evocative, wistful, beautiful, and intelligent music. Keeping to this same idea of creating soundscapes that speak to you in odd and interesting ways, he went on to produce Music for Films and Music for Airports. I never get tired of his experiments in sound. Many bands have borrowed a page from Eno to embellish their work. I remember when I first heard Music for Airports. The people I was with were put off by the simplicity of the piece, saying it sounded like someone messing around with a piano but not playing anything. It mesmerized me to no end. Literally to no end, I am still listening to Music for Airports in my head. Eno simply wanted music suitable for an airport, which would relax you and put you in the right mood for possible sudden death. He actually described it this way, which reveals his dry sense of humor. This was the birth of ambient music, music in the background not intended to capture your full attention. However Eno’s music always captures my attention. Brian Eno’s music lends itself very well to film, hence the brief (too brief) little sketches he does for Music for Films.
Brian Eno’s music never fails to improve my mood. It uplifts me. I had been feeling depressed today, and didn’t want to post anything on my blog, and then it occurred to me to post something about Brian Eno. Of course I had to listen to him as I did this, and it inspired me as it always does. The marriage between Brian Eno and David Bowie (so to speak, they weren’t actually married), is legendary. It set the bar very high for alternative rock, and I would agree with Eno that no one has really progressed beyond their work in the late seventies. Everyone is basically going over the same ground. The difference between the legion of synthesizer wizards which populated countless bands of the eighties, and Eno, lies in the way Eno transcends the medium. He is able to give warmth and spirituality to an essentially cold, intellectual instrument. I also like the synthesizer work of OMD, which approaches at times the spirituality of Eno’s music. But most of it was variations of Devo, without the satire. Even though Brian Eno has been teased about his singing voice, I have always liked it. It is understated which suits the songs. But of course he will always be remembered for his ground breaking instrumental work.
I am including here 1) a collaboration with Harold Budd called First Light which is one of the most uplifting of Eno’s work with equal thanks to Budd as well. It takes me away from my depressing thoughts and to a still, quiet, beautiful world. You can just skip the advertisement at the beginning. The video is nice too.
2) another collaboration, this time with Robert Fripp called Timean Sparkles. This has a wonderful fragility to it.
3) Fractal Zoom which shows Brian Eno can also rock. The video is nice too.
4) and finally, Spinning Away, a collaboration with John Cale with Eno singing. One of my favorite songs of all time. If this doesn’t inspire you what will?