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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Brian Eno (with Moebius and Roedelius): After The Heat

BRIAN ENO: AFTER THE HEAT (w. Moebius and Roedelius) (1978)

1) Foreign Affairs; 2) The Belldog; 3) Base & Apex; 4) Tzima N'Arki; 5) Luftschloss; 6) Oil; 7) Broken Head; 8) Light Arms; 9) The Shade; 10) Old Land.

Do not miss out on this one — the second Cluster/Eno collaboration is notably more ambitious than the first one, and a strong, reliable, supportive companion to both Another Green World and Before And After Science, not just because it is really the last time in a long, long while that Brian would be working in the «song» format (My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts excluded), but also because it is the last time in a long, long while that you are going to get some massive, sti­mulating, maybe even mind-blowing art-pop hooks from the guy.

We are talking, first and foremost, about ʽThe Belldogʼ, a six-minute atmospheric masterpiece which truly feels like a collaboration — a perfect synthesis of industrial-robotic Krautrock with Eno's ability to generate a transcendental aura out of almost nothing. The lyrics could be inter­preted as usual nonsense — or they could be interpreted as another constatation of the inevitable «man-machine merger» ("then in a certain moment I lose control and at last I am part of the ma­chinery"), which is supported by the music: the heavenly synthesizers, the relaxed, but rhythmic chimes, the impressionistic piano «spills», and Eno's graceful singing are the «human/spiritual» part of the equation, and the steady electronic pulse that serves as the rhythmic basis for the song represents the «machinery». Without the electronic pulse and the lyrics, the song would have easily fit in on Science, but Science, despite being all smothered in electronics, never once strived for a «robotic» feel — ʽThe Belldogʼ, on the other hand, has this clearly designed internal conflict between artificial intelligence and spiritual essence, where both sides seem to come to terms rather than destroy one another; fascinating and a bit creepy at the same time.

However, although it is hard to notice this at first, After The Heat is actually more than one song. Its goals and results are more diverse and more dynamic than those of Cluster & Eno, even if the overall feel of both records are compatible — the «depth» provided by Eno is combined with the «sternness» and «solemnity» of Cluster, resulting in a cold, physically uncomfortable impression that is perfectly compatible with the dark-blue seascape on the front cover. Occasionally, there is some humor: ʽTzima N'Arkiʼ, for instance, could have been a gloomily deconstructed «post-blues-rock jam», but for some reason Eno decided to accompany it with backward vocals, inclu­ding the chorus to ʽKing's Lead Hatʼ (the song title is apparently the reversed phonetic transcrip­tion of ʽEconomiesʼ, which is itself an anagram of ENO IS COME — yes, so the man has an unhealthy obsession with the power of sounds and letters, sue him if you have nothing better to do) — anyway, this makes the tune kind of funny, but the overall feel of the album is not.

The average instrumental here is cold and remote, like ʽBase & Apexʼ, where an electronic pulse similar to the one in ʽThe Belldogʼ is wedged between freezing minimalistic keyboard chords and recurrent ghostly «sighs» that seem to be produced by treated slide guitars, but I am not exactly sure; or ʽOilʼ, with a creepy bassline, swoops of more ghostly synth wings, and premonitions of ecological catastrophes (this is ʽOilʼ, see?). Every now and then a ray of sunlight does appear, like in the form of the sprightly pop piano melody of ʽLuftschlossʼ, which is continuously stuck in «introduction mode», never receiving the chance to break out of the minimalist pattern, but the sunny impression is there all right. However, even without the obviously uplifting patterns After The Heat has nothing depressing or «horrendous» about it — like most other Eno and/or Cluster records, this is a weirdly executed celebration of beauty, and beauty should not always feel totally comfortable and predictable.

At the end of it all, ʽOld Landʼ leads us out with slow, stately, meditative synth and piano pat­terns — somewhat similarly to ʽSpider And Iʼ, although the textures are much less dense and much more economical. I mentioned the «pop» nature of many of its tunes, but it is, of course, also clear that on the whole it is already far more influenced by minimalism and ambience than Before And After Science, a record almost «commercial» in comparison, and will hardly ever produce an impression of comparable force. Nevertheless, almost each track has its own face here, and ʽThe Belldogʼ towers over everything else like... well, like a belldog, so this is a very worthy addition to the overall catalog — a thumbs up without further doubts or questions.

3 comments:

  1. I don't know much about ambient but I know what I like. This one, for example, is an outstanding piece - musical landscapes of rare beauty with "Belldog" which gives me goosebumps every time (and also has an interesting story behind). I usually prefer when he doesn't make his music as minimalistic as possible or at least allows to give it a strong rhythmic backbone (like on "My life in the bush of ghosts or "Nerve. net", if you can call those two "ambient").
    I think your track listing is a bit messed up though. In the original version all the songs are crammed onto the second side and the record ends on a more playful note with "Tzima N'Arki".

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    Replies
    1. Your copy has the track order of the original LP -- some CD releases (including George's) have different arangements.

      Fun fact that I wasn't previously aware of: Holger Czukay of Can plays bass on"Tzima N'Arki".

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  2. No mention of "Broken Head" in this review? That one's a classic! "The Belldog" is obviously the centerpiece of the album, but "Broken Head" is substantial competition.

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