Author Topic: Brian Eno  (Read 1792 times)

DJ Bob Hoskins

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Brian Eno
« on: July 19, 2020, 12:03:56 AM »
I got into Eno by accident / fate. As a teenager I was vaguely aware of his status as some sort of production guru, and that he'd worked with U2 and others. Over the years it just so happened that I'd start getting into an artist only to discover he'd produced them (Talking Heads, Harmonia, Devo). I'm a massive Velvet Underground fan and was pleased to discover that he was too, and also worked with John Cale and Nico. Hell, he even turned up in Father Ted (the beloved Arthur Mathews sitcom).

A kindly colleague lent me a stack of his CDs (this was in the early 2000's, kids), and I fell in love with his music. I also came to really admire his whole approach to art, music and production in general. I've even used his Oblique Strategies thing (despite the fortune-cookie aphorisms, a lot of the tips are genuinely brilliant).

Anyway, despite having access to most of his (vast) catalogue, I've mainly only listened to my same few favourites over and over (Discreet Music, Music for Airports, Apollo, Another Green World, Music for Films).

So, my questions to CaB, are:

A) Where do I start with a deeper dive into his discography (i'm not a huge fan of his vocal stuff, to be honest, and seem to generally prefer his ambient music)

B) What do you lot think of him? One of the greatest musical geniuses of our lifetime, or barmy old cack?

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2020, 12:12:50 AM »
Check out the rest of the original ambient series, Ambient 4: On Land is my favourite of his, quite dark and spooky with a mixture of ominous and melancholic vibes prevailing throughout. Have you heard him on Adam Buxton's podcast? He came across just as I thought he would, a sort of kindly old wizard but still very sharp and perceptive.  Almost makes you forgive him for producing multiple U2 and Coldplay albums.

Brian Eno - Lizard Point

Here's a video of him trying to do an interview and getting interrupted by his needy cat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_0RcB-Vj7M

DJ Bob Hoskins

  • Going mental in a dustbin
Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2020, 12:21:19 AM »
Cheers, I have heard the other Ambient ones and like them a lot. My Life In The Bush of Ghosts is also a cracker.

I lapped up the Adam Buxton podcasts and indeed I could listen to him talk for hours. He always comes across as a thoughtful and studied individual, and articulates his ideas really well. Having said that, one of my favourite interview bits of his was from a BBC(4?) documentary from a few years ago where the conversation went something like:

Interviewer: Is it true that one of the reasons for your departure from Roxy Music was that Bryan Ferry resented the fact that you got more girls than he did?
Eno: Well, I wouldn't know really, you'd have to ask him.
Interviewer: Did you get more girls than him, though?
Eno [without a second's hesitation]: Yes.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 12:45:03 AM by DJ Bob Hoskins »

Sin Agog

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2020, 12:25:28 AM »
I assume if you've heard Harmonia & Eno's Tracks & Traces, you've also listened to the Cluster & Eno album?  Worth a spin if not.  Must admit, I'm primarily about the Art Rock Eno mesen, but the ambient stuff has its uses.  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1-WkhKeF4_o

Went to an exhibit he curated the year he directed the Brighton Festival. It was basically a room where a 'puter was put in charge of the lights and sound, fascinated as he is in his aloof middle class kind of way with anonymous, randomised creativity.  Sat on a sofa to take it in a bit when I realised there he was sitting next to me.  Gave him a cool nod, then walked out into the sunshine to get on with my life, such as it is.

The Mollusk

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2020, 11:11:42 AM »
Fully-blossomed Eno in all his ambient exploratory splendour is indeed truly marvellous, but I wouldn’t like to see his earlier barmy psych-glam pomp go unmentioned. “Here Come the Warm Jets” has been rather panned on here before but I think it’s fucking great. The screeching wild guitar solo on “Baby’s On Fire” is a real standout and springs instantly to mind whenever I think of the man. That album has a great sense of humour.

“Before and After Science” is also a really solid album, carrying a more focused blend of that madcap psychedelia in the first half before steadily drifting into more melancholic and wistful arrangements that showcase the ambient leanings that would come out fully formed in the years that followed.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2020, 11:48:44 AM »
He would be a canonised figure for just one of his various threads - Roxy Music bleeper, extensive collaborator, ambient music supremo, big ticket producer, writer of arch art pop, no wave documenter, thinker about music approaches/proto-punk theorist, sound artist - so it is pretty incredible that this one guy managed to encompass all of that without being a passenger/dilettante. There has to be, I argue, some Eno for everyone. And all Eno is for no one.

For me his post-Roxy non-ambient period is his most fruitful era: the glorious solo pop records, the collaborations with Cluster, Harmonia, Robert Fripp, and redefining Talking Heads, and Bowie. When Harold Budd crops up, it starts to become less interesting to me. But even in his dotage he still manages a good hit rate: the collab with Kevin Shields was for my money better than m b v.

There's definitely some proper shit in there (Shutov Assembly, Neural Net) and interchangeable process records but he never gets stuck in any one mode too long.

His ambient music is an interesting wager re: reorienting the relationship between listener, sound, and space. But i. it clearly leads to terrible developments like muzak and pop music designed not to offend and ii. feels puny compared to later works notionally called 'ambient'. To me, ambient is actually an intersection of genres at their quietest dynamic rather than 'background music', which is something else. But a brilliant concept and he was right there with it, like John Grierson and documentary, forever synonymous.

I read an interview with him where he talks about producing grey slop like U2 and Coldplay over more interesting bands. He said something interesting: that the challenge was to get these bands to think differently about the process, to try and re-address the question of communication in pop. I think that's the kind of high-thinking unreality Eno is capable of: both bands become progressively less interesting. It's ok to pay the bills, Bri.

Also sometimes as a producer he could drain the essential energy from bands: Devo and Ultravox both could have hit harder on debut.

Anyway, my 10 fav "Eno is here somewhere" records in no order:

Evening Star
Another Green World
Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Remain in Light
Tracks and Traces
Cluster and Eno
Low
Fourth World Vol. 1
Discreet Music
For Your Pleasure

Quite the career.



Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2020, 01:58:52 PM »
His ambient stuff bores the absolute shit out of me, it's one of those styles of music that I find completely pointless. Loads of people don't, I know, it's just I do. Complete wank.

On the other hand, Taking Tiger Mountain, Here Come The Warm Jets, No Pussyfooting, 801 Live, Another Green World, Before And After Science, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts are all masterpieces and everybody should own them. Really, they're fucking brilliant, to the point that it's a bit unfair on everybody else for not being as good as him.

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today has got some great stuff on it too, although I can do without a lot of it.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2020, 02:10:26 PM »
There's definitely some proper shit in there (Shutov Assembly, Neural Net) and interchangeable process records but he never gets stuck in any one mode too long.

Nerve Net

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2020, 02:15:59 PM »
In an unseen chapter of The Matrix, before Neo proved to be the One, they checked out Eno.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2020, 04:16:46 PM »
Nerve Net

sorry, it was 11.48am, you know what I'm like at 11.48am

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2020, 04:23:30 PM »
One of the greatest musical geniuses or our lifetime.

Too hungover to write anymore but will do.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2020, 04:30:30 PM »
Agreed r.e. his early attempts at producing other bands sucking the energy from them but at least on the first Ultravox! record, patchy as it is in my opinion, it led to My Sex which is one of their finest moments and Foxx's best lyrics. I've no time for post Foxx Ultravox but that's another thread. Similarly I know a lot of the bands on the No New York comp weren't happy with him.

Read somewhere him talking about his work with U2 and Coldplay and saying that he was working on both their records at the same time, joking he could mix up the files and no one would tell the difference. Wish I could find that interview.

His four song based 70s records - let me add myself to the crowd falling over themselves to praise them. I think if you've written something as beautiful as Mother Whale Eyeless you're entitled to be a complete bastard so that he isn't just makes him better.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2020, 05:07:22 PM »
Read somewhere him talking about his work with U2 and Coldplay and saying that he was working on both their records at the same time, joking he could mix up the files and no one would tell the difference. Wish I could find that interview.

https://youtu.be/CPOz5-rcIeA?t=2687. Around 44:50 if that timestamp link doesn't work.

sirhenry

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2020, 06:49:20 PM »
In a programme about him a few years ago (Arena?) he admitted that he hadn't listened to the first few ambient albums at normal speed as he recorded and mixed them at double speed and couldn't be arsed to listen to them slower. And there were a couple of them that he recorded and mixed at 4x speed that he never released: Music for Morgues and Music for Morgues II - Music to Bleed Out To.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2020, 06:50:45 PM »
"Wise words from a wise old wizard."

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2020, 07:08:27 PM »
“Here Come the Warm Jets” has been rather panned on here before

WHO ARE THESE HERETICS? HAVE THEM BROUGHT BEFORE ME.

This is still a pretty damned hilarious thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwFry159gZw

purlieu

  • Gertrude Stein said that's enough.
Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2020, 08:25:05 PM »
(Discreet Music, Music for Airports, Apollo, Another Green World, Music for Films).

[...]

A) Where do I start with a deeper dive into his discography (i'm not a huge fan of his vocal stuff, to be honest, and seem to generally prefer his ambient music)

Honestly, you've covered most of it if you've got Ambient 2-4. The Harold Budd collab The Pearl is definitely worth a go, a wonderfully moody aquatic sounding work. Thursday Afternoon, Neroli, Lux and Reflection are all fine, but don't come close in quality to his earliest ambient works. The Shutov Assembly has some gems and some unremarkable pap.

Before and After Science is my favourite of his, closely followed by Another Green World. I love the ambient miniatures much more than his longform stuff, and the songs are a really ambient-pop extension of his early psych-glam stuff (which I enjoy, but not as much). I'm actually very fond of My Squelchy Life, the scrapped 1992 album which comes as a bonus disc to the deluxe version of Nerve Net. It's basically the better tracks from that album along with a bunch of BaAS/AGW-style ambient pop pieces. The production is very early '90s, but the songwriting makes up for some of the naff sounding drum loops.

I've watched hours of documentaries and lectures on YouTube and he always impresses me in just about everything he says. A wonderful human being indeed.

shagatha crustie

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2020, 08:28:16 PM »
I prefer his production and ambient work to the vocal stuff too, he always sounds a bit smug/bland/flat to me and I don't like his lyrics.

HOWEVER

The second side of Before and After Science is three of the greatest tracks he ever made (and one ok one, funnily enough the one without vocals). Just amazing dreamy progressive pop. 'By This River.' Imagine making that.

Agreed with whoever said it gets a bit bland around the Harold Budd era, but The Plateaux of Mirror is one of my favourites - I'm really partial to atmospheric piano music on a night and I've rarely heard it done better than that.

purlieu

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2020, 08:43:24 PM »
The second side of Before and After Science is three of the greatest tracks he ever made (and one ok one, funnily enough the one without vocals). Just amazing dreamy progressive pop. 'By This River.' Imagine making that.
My favourite Eno song. Really is a masterpiece. And yes, 'Julie With' and 'Spider and I' are stunners too. That's one of my favourite album sides ever, I think.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2020, 08:56:09 PM »
There's some half-decent stuff on the 1990 album with John Cale, too, Wrong Way Up. Lay My Love is my favourite of those: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9gzMb0s6zM

earl_sleek

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #20 on: July 19, 2020, 09:11:06 PM »
His ambient music is an interesting wager re: reorienting the relationship between listener, sound, and space. But i. it clearly leads to terrible developments like muzak and pop music designed not to offend


I think people often miss something important about ambient music that Eno articulated; cba to dig up the actual quote but I remember reading him saying that the point was you could have it on in the background or be listening to it intently and it would still work. I guess Erik Satie's furniture music presaged it somewhat, but I don't know if Eno was inspired by that or not.

Also I like Nerve Net! And despite trying, I don't like his pre-ambient art rock stuff either, it's just not for me. But I think the Ambient series is sublime, as is Apollo, No Pussyfooting, Low, Heroes, MLITBOG. His work is too broad and varried, and full of some many different approaches for any two people to completely agree on it.

purlieu

  • Gertrude Stein said that's enough.
Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2020, 09:53:01 PM »
Re: Muzak, the liner notes to Ambient 1:

Quote
The concept of music designed specifically as a background feature in the environment was pioneered by Muzak Inc. in the fifties, and has since come to be known generically by the term Muzak. The connotations that this term carries are those particularly associated with the kind of material that Muzak Inc. produces—familiar tunes arranged
and orchestrated in a lightweight and derivative manner. Understandably, this has led most discerning listeners (and most composers) to dismiss entirely the concept of environmental music as an idea worthy of attention.

Over the past three years, I have become interested in the use of music as ambience, and have come to believe that it is possible to produce material that can be used thus without being in any way compromised. To create a distinction between my own experiments in this area and the products of the various purveyors of canned music, I have begun using the term Ambient Music.

An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times
and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.

Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularising environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncrasies, Ambient Music is intended to enhance these. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) from the music, Ambient Music retains these qualities. And whereas their intention is to `brighten’ the environment by adding stimulus to it (thus supposedly alleviating the tedium of routine tasks and levelling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms) Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.

Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.

So I'd say it's unfair to say ambient leads to Muzak: not only was it developed long after, but Eno made a conscious attempt to add the elements that Muzak lacked. I find a lot of Eno's ambient stuff is a world away from Muzak: beautiful, haunting, eerie, uplifting, but never smugly inoffensive.

What I do find interesting is just how little ambient music actually follows the description in Music for Airports. The 'sound paintings' idea in Ambient 4: On Land is closer to what a lot of so-called 'ambient' music represents, but even then, the term tends to be mostly applied to any electronic music without much discernible rhythm, or any electronic music designed to create an atmosphere. In a relatively recent interview, Eno said he thought the whole ambient genre was funny, because people were using it to describe particular sounds he liked - generally the soft, mellow synths and treated piano sounds of his late '70s and early '80s work - rather than to describe the creative process and purpose of the music.

I guess Erik Satie's furniture music presaged it somewhat, but I don't know if Eno was inspired by that or not.
Yes, he's directly referenced it a few times.

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2020, 12:14:29 PM »
Of course Muzak predates Eno but Muzak and the course of new age music seems to change with Eno's stone tablets of ambient prophecy with developments in generative music and a sense of hippy consciousness. Something something algorthimisation of music.

wosl

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2020, 04:35:16 PM »
In a programme about him a few years ago (Arena?) he admitted that he hadn't listened to the first few ambient albums at normal speed as he recorded and mixed them at double speed and couldn't be arsed to listen to them slower.

These day I habitually listen to Eno's ambient albums slowed down by 10-15%.  I'm so used to listening to his brother's Voices album playing 20-25% more slowly than released, that the original has come to sound ridiculously sped up (some of it also sounds great played backwards - but not all of it, interestingly). If less is often more, then so can slow be (and I don't just mean temporally).

Better Midlands

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #24 on: July 20, 2020, 04:44:04 PM »

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #25 on: July 20, 2020, 04:45:11 PM »
An Ending (Ascent) is lovely backwards.

Head Gardener

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #26 on: July 20, 2020, 04:45:21 PM »


you might dig this pretty ambient Eno mix what I did once upon a long ago: https://www.mixcloud.com/Gardener/brian-eno-mix/

Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #27 on: July 20, 2020, 04:50:44 PM »
Think I downloaded that a few years back. It's good.

Head Gardener

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Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #28 on: July 20, 2020, 05:05:06 PM »
Think I downloaded that a few years back. It's good.

ooh ta


Re: Brian Eno
« Reply #29 on: July 20, 2020, 08:50:12 PM »
I've just recently started getting into his ambient stuff. I really like Small Craft On A Milk Sea.

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