BRIAN ENO: THE DROP (1997)
1) Slip, Dip; 2) But If; 3) Belgian Drop; 4) Cornered; 5) Block Drop; 6) Out Out; 7) Swanky; 8) Coasters; 9) Blissed; 10) M. C. Organ; 11) Boomcubist; 12) Hazard; 13) Rayonism; 14) Dutch Blur; 15) Back Clack; 16) Dear World; 17) Iced World.
True to its name, I believe that all of this album, except for the last track, is about «the drop». Since gravity causes different effects depending on the nature of the object subjected to gravity, things, you know, tend to drop at different rates with different sonic repercussions, and this is exactly the subject that Brian Eno explores on this album. And if you think the subject is slight, well, think again — can you even imagine a world without dropping? It's not every second, mind you, that a starving child dies in Africa — but every second, millions and billions of objects around the world effectuate The Drop. And has anyone in the history of music ever made a work of art about that? Absolutely nobody, not even The Fall.
On the down side, when you dig deep into the art of dropping, it shows little potential for fascination. If you emphasize it and make tricky electronic interlocking patterns, like Autechre, it can have some crazy appeal — but if you treat it minimalistically, like Brian does here, it doesn't do all that much. Sixteen short tracks — snippets, really — that range from rhythm-less atmospheric textures to (theoretically) danceable tracks with drum-'n'-bass support, and most of them just float by without awakening any unusual thoughts or feelings. There is little here that wasn't already done better on Nerve Net or Spinner, and those, too, weren't exactly huge artistic successes. At best, this music feels like a collection of moody intros to potentially gripping songs — some mildly intriguing groove is set up, you subconsciously expect it to develop / transition into something more exciting, it never does, and you walk away... dissatisfied. Maybe you will get an idea of what a ʽBelgian Dropʼ really is, but how exactly is that going to help you develop your spirituality and keep in touch with The Eternal?
Since the tracks are so frustratingly non-descript, I believe that the only thing that remains is to point out that the last track, called ʽIced Worldʼ and stretching out for more than thirty minutes, is actually just an extended version of the second part of the last track from Spinner, and that nothing particularly different happens in those 25 minutes of it that were not included on Spinner. I do wonder if there's a skyscraper high enough anywhere in the world that would require a 32-minute ride with ʽIced Worldʼ as the soundtrack. If there is, they should be waiting for you with a straitjacket at the top, just for the purpose of extra security — or, at the very least, you might never ever want to hear a piano again as long as you live.
It is so ironic, of course, that the worst of Eno's ambient albums seem to be those on which something actually happens — at least Music For Airports, with its Zen-Spartan poise, entrances you with its superficially humble arrogance, but this «unwelcome jazz» thing that Brian got going in the late Nineties is just yawn-inducing. Never even mind that these albums put him at a total disadvantage with all the experimentation and innovation that was happening at the same time on the electronic scene — it's just a bunch of bland sonic collages by itself, in and out of any context. I can understand that the man was bored, but rubbing your boredom off on others is simply impolite, especially for such a great artist.