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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Brian Eno: Music For Films


1) Aragon; 2) From The Same Hill; 3) Inland Sea; 4) Two Rapid Formations; 5) Slow Water; 6) Sparrowfall (1); 7) Sparrowfall (2); 8) Sparrowfall (3); 9) Alternative 3; 10) Quartz; 11) Events In Dense Fog; 12) There Is Nobody; 13) Patrolling Wire Borders; 14) A Measured Room; 15) Task Force; 16) M386; 17) Strange Light; 18) Final Sunset.

Nice choice here for those who'd like to own an Eno ambient album but feel stupid listening to the same 3-5 notes over and over again. This collection, where recordings span an almost four-year period, originally had a limited release, largely serving as a bunch of «promos» sent out to various studios and film directors — although, apparently, only very few of the pieces eventually found their way to celluloid (Derek Jarman, one of the greatest heroes of somber arthouse, used up as many as two of them, but most «normal» directors allegedly had a hard time synching the material to any of their own visuals), and it is not very likely that Brian actually believed that these bits would be used in actual films — much like it would be hard to suspect him of naïvely believing that Music For Airports would ever become a favorite theme in any actual airport, other than the platonically ideal airport of his own dreams.

Nevertheless, the illusiveness of the title by no means signifies the worthlessness of the music. As far as Enambient is concerned, these pieces are (a) short, (b) relatively diverse, (c) showing subtle dynamic elements, and (d) not always completely electronic — some of the tracks are, in fact, outtakes from the Another Green World and Before And After Science sessions, so you will find such guest stars as Robert Fripp, Fred Frith, John Cale, Phil Collins, and even Rhett Davies on trumpet scattered among the electronic jungle. Most importantly, while it is almost inevitable that 18 snippets like this (and on the early edition, the number ran all the way up to 27) will con­tain a share of filler, Music For Films still features the genius in, well, genius mode.

Thus, for instance, ʽEvents In Deep Fogʼ sounds exactly like one could expect from the title — there's not really all that much that could happen in dense fog, and there isn't a lot happening here, but what matters is the awesome haziness of the selected tones, and how the music completely dies down every few bars, and then resurfaces like a new shadow of some blurry object emerging from the haze, and also how the atmosphere feels so close to some of the tracks on David Bowie's Low, and yet there is no sense of dread, because the music here pursues — and accomplishes — different goals, with largely the same means.

The instrumental combinations here range from subtle (like the minimal acoustic guitar twangs on ʽFrom The Same Hillʼ, a lonesome expressive voice against the collective electronic hum) to quite tricky — like ʽTwo Rapid Formationsʼ, where Eno is joined by Fred Frith of Henry Cow, Bill MacCormick of Matching Mole, and Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention, and the four concoct a suspenseful, «cavernous» attitude where you get the feel of slowly making your way through some damp underground tunnel while occasional pairs of bats, or ghosts, or interstellar ambulance vehicles make their way past you at an alarmingly regular, but harmless, rate. Some­times there is even a whiff of aggressiveness: ʽPatrolling Wire Bordersʼ features John Cale almost literally biting into his viola, playing the same note over and over again as if sending out a dis­tress — or an attack — signal, which is then picked up and echoed in a metal-scrape manner by one of Eno's processors (I think; I'm not sure what actually goes on there, but the effect is very much «industrial», and where most of the tracks here have a «natural» or «transcendental» flavor to them, this one just grinds all over the place).

I am a little bit disappointed by the finale: ʽFinal Sunsetʼ, despite being the longest track of 'em all and clearly positioned as a conclusive coda, is not one of Eno's best statements of grand serene beauty — too light, perhaps, and way too inobtrusive, probably feeling like a real sunset all right, but hardly the «final» one. Still, this disappointment is relevant only if you decide that Music For Films should necessarily feel like a musical story, coherent from beginning to end, which it is not: it was never intended as anything other than a loosely tied together collection of electronic vig­net­tes — in fact, Eno might have done it a disservice by going over the original (lack of) sequen­cing and rearranging the tracks in a more «meaningful» order on the EG reissue, since, in a way, this is just a matter of useless tampering with the original artistic (lack of) intent. As a series of brief, ultimately forgettable, but instantaneously very pleasing impressions, this thing totally suc­ceeds. Although, if you are a young aspiring film director looking for a good soundtrack, I would advise staying away from this stuff — most likely, your movie already sucks, so why consider any additional ways to make it even more unwatchable?

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