BRIAN ENO: THURSDAY AFTERNOON (1985)
1) Thursday Afternoon.
For full, originally intended effect this single track, stretched out over an hour, should go hand in hand with a video installation, where, allegedly, seven immobile shots of a semi-nude model were filtered through various video effects. Without the accompanying visual impressions, the sheer transcendence of the sonic palette will travel through your conscience unfertilized, and you will be forced to quench your spiritual thirst with imperfection. Damn you, Brian Eno, then, for allowing Polydor Records to distribute this work of art as a stand-alone audio CD, providing the illusion of perfection for your fans worldwide when in reality they are surreptitiously offered but one half of the apple of revelation.
Then again, who in his right mind would want to spend sixty minutes (or even more) staring at a video installation? Even if it shows semi-nude models? If it happened to be any of you reading this review, please take the time to leave behind a happy memory of an epiphany you had in the process, one that alleviated for you the uneasy task of opening your mind to possibilities and looking at the material and trans-material world in front of you with a different set of eyes. If it did not happen, well, let us join forces and see what we can make out of these sixty minutes of sounds, and how, even today, it can help us cure cancer and neutralize ISIL leaders.
One visual association that I definitely do not get is with semi-nude models. The composition consists of a set of seemingly random, but in reality quite complicatedly patterned processed piano notes, playing against a very, very slow crescendo of electronic hum. The notes, as is quite common with Eno's ambient experiments, are subject to delay, subtle timbre change, and overlaying, so, technically, you probably could not state with certainty that «it all sounds exactly the same», but from a layman's point of view, it certainly does. The electronic hum eventually drowns out the piano tinkling, but only around the 58th minute or so, after which the humming machine simply fades out.
If there is a visual association, it would most likely be something in the cubist style... no, not even cubist: more like De Stijl. Yes, actually, Thursday Afternoon would have made a fine audio companion to a van Doesburg exhibition — its piano «plops», appearing on the surface as quickly as they vanish again into nothingness, are just like randomized, proto-Tetris geometric figures on De Stijl design pieces. Which is not really a compliment: De Stijl, as far as I am concerned, works much better on T-shirts and table cloths than it does in a museum, but would then Thursday Afternoon also have a purely pragmatic function? Other than, I guess, you could set it as the default receiving melody on your cell phone and spiritually illuminate all your contacts instead of picking up the phone and replying to their petty harassments?..
This is a piece of music that is, in the words of certain business executives, "inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional"; the only option that is not observed here is that "it must be 3¼ seconds long", because the quotation, as retold by Brian, refers, of course, to the Windows 95 theme, which was basically Thursday Afternoon condensed to that sort of length (imagine Windows 95 taking sixty minutes to load, though). That was a nicely pragmatic «applied» use for Eno's magic. Other than that, you could set it to run in the background, for relaxation and harmonization and purification purposes (burning some incense alongside would be nice as well), but I am afraid that, whatever else you'd be doing at the moment — scrubbing the windows, doing your taxes, writing your novel, or, God forbid, making love to your equally nutty New Age-y girlfriend — you would begin slowly going crazy around the 15 minute mark, and finalizing the deinstallation around the 40th minute, because this stuff is naggy: the synth hum is okay, but the piano notes may eventually cause the same effect as dripping water in a torture cell.
That said, (a) the main «theme», if run for about a couple of minutes, is every bit as beautiful and mystical as anything the man ever did, and (b) if you are a professional risk-taker or just an avid listener, hardened in many a battle against arrogant genius, submitting yourself to the full experience at least once is probably not the stupidest way to delete sixty minutes of your life. Which, like anybody else's life, is worthless anyway next to the deep mysteries and wonders of the universe — and we might just as well proclaim this as the basic overall meaning of Thursday Afternoon, an album that one might easily condemn, but hardly ever forget.