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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Brian Eno: More Music For Films


1) Untitled; 2) Last Door; 3) Chemin De Fer; 4) Dark Waters; 5) Fuseli; 6) Melancholy Waltz; 7) Northern Lights; 8) From The Coast; 9) Shell; 10) Empty Landscape; 11) Reactor; 12) Secret; 13) Don't Look Back; 14) Marseilles; 15) Dove; 16) Roman Twilight; 17) Dawn Marshland; 18) Climate Study; 19) Drift Study; 20) Approaching Taidu; 21) Always Returning II.

I might be on Brian Eno's payroll, surreptitiously inflating his reputation for hundreds of people who like to be brainwashed by Only Solitaire, but not even a really generous helping from the man's most highly treasured private stash of juicy porn could make me state, poker face-style, that More Music For Films is not an album «for completists only». Originally titled Music For Films Vol. 2, it used to be an even less helpful proposition than it is today — because on the ori­ginal release, about a third of the tracks were simply carried over from Apollo. In 2005, when it came to remastering the material for the CD age, some wise decisions were taken: «doubling» tracks were mostly removed, and in their place Eno shoved lots of snippets that were either com­pletely unavailable up to then, or had been released earlier, as rarities, on the 1993 boxset Eno Box I, which was out of print anyway.

But regardless of this, both the original release and the new one feel scraggly. The original Music For Films, too, was rather heterogeneous, yet Eno managed to put the different pieces together so well that, even if they never had the coherence of Another Green World, there was a certain... well, mood continuity, let's call it. In any case, it was an original and conceptual undertaking, whatever. This «sequel», though, is really just scraping the barrel — gathering together every­thing that, for one reason or other, had hitherto avoided being gathered, and throwing it out with little regard for proper sequencing. All sorts of snippets and outtakes in all sorts of styles: take your personal pick, chances are you'll like at least some of it, but you certainly won't be walking away from it thinking, «wow, that was some album I just listened to!»

Amusingly, around the time of the original release Brian would remark that the second volume is quite distinct from the first largely because the tunes, on the average, are longer — but with the CD release, that distinction has been largely erased, because most of the new tracks are very brief, usually minute-long, snippets that do not have a serious chance to make a lasting impression. ʽUntitledʼ, for instance, sounds like an outtake from Before And After Science, probably with Percy Jones on bass again, but the overall composition only barely begins to find its footing by the time it's over, and ends up sounding like a warm-up rehearsal at a Brand X recording session (as well as the next two tracks, by the way).

Elsewhere, you get some transcendental electronic drone (ʽDark Watersʼ), some transcendental country muzak (ʽMelancholy Waltzʼ indeed), some solemn baroque ambient (ʽFrom The Coastʼ), some menacing industrial grind with Frippertronics (ʽReactorʼ), and then the last third of the al­bum, which is really the only part that overlaps with the original Vol. 2, largely sounds like a con­tinuation of Apollo, if you were all that desperate for a sequel, because, you know, Eno always leaves you with a cliffhanger — many of us are still dying to see the thrilling suspense of Music For Airports resolved, one way or another.

On a concluding optimistic note, I really enjoy the track ʽDawn Marshlandʼ. It might be one of the clo­sest times he ever came to capturing that «nature sound» without there being anything «natural» about the track — synthesized hum and slightly spooky bird hoots, creating a foggy dawn atmosphere that veers between the mystical and the terrifying. As usual, nothing too com­plex about it, just this stunning realization that... you know, so many people are doing these things and so many people have trouble coming up with good semantics behind them. And with Eno... right or wrong, but with so many of these short tracks, logical semantic interpretations just hop inside your brain, easy, focused, like bees inside a hive. How does he do that? He really is one of the very few people in the world who make electronic instruments feel so utterly natural (which, of course, could also be used as a criticism — what's the point of making electronic in­struments sound «natural» when you can just use «natural» sounds instead? which could lead to a lengthy discussion, but that would be well beyond my current point). For the moment, we'll just assume that the man is smarter than most of them (and most of us), pending logical proof, and move on.

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