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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Brian Eno (with Jah Wobble): Spinner

BRIAN ENO: SPINNER (w. Jah Wobble) (1995)

1) Where We Lived; 2) Like Organza; 3) Steam; 4) Garden Recalled; 5) Marine Radio; 6) Unusual Balance; 7) Space Diary 1; 8) Spinner; 9) Transmitter And Trumpet; 10) Left Where It Fell.

As most of those people who are supposed to generally know stuff about people named «Jah Wobble» already know, but those people who find names like «Jah Wobble» kinda funny probably may not know, Jah Wobble was an old friend of the Sex Pistols' John Lydon, and to­gether they originally formed PiL, where he played bass guitar before he got bored and moved on to an even more experimental/avantgarde solo career. That a guy like that would eventually attract Brian Eno's attention was quite probable, but it is important to keep in mind that Spinner was not really a «collaboration» as such.

Instead, what happened is that Eno simply sent Wobble a bunch of his tapes that were originally recorded for the soundtrack to one of Derek Jarman's experimental movies — just, you know, because what do you do with a bunch of tapes left over from a soundtrack? Why, you send them to Jah Wobble! Like, what could be more natural and predictable? Remember, Jah Wobble is always there behind your back to make good use of your leftovers (provided your skill level is at least 20 points, which makes you eligible for co-operation).

The results are not particularly thrilling, though. Wobble decided not to disrupt the steady ambient flow of Eno's tapes — instead, he just made them more bass-heavy, added some rhythm (in places), and emphasized the dark / mystical / ominous aspects, but all very gently, even on those of the tracks that also received a volume boost from percussion and electric guitar overdubs (some of the percussion was handled by Can's own Jaki Liebezeit, which is particularly notice­able on the title track with its fussy, overspilling drum track). What emerges is a mix of ambient, industrial, and even dub compositions that are never too intrusive, not very illuminating, and mainly just keep returning you to those dark sonic caverns that you have probably already ex­plored in depth on earlier Eno albums.

It's not bad, and not even meaningless, but none of this inspires any creative writing: the beats sound normal, the synth and bass tones are nothing special, the «acid jazz» overtones that some­times arise out of nowhere are fairly routine, and the last track, which goes on for 15 minutes, according to Brian himself, was not liked by anyone, so he called this style, self-ironically, «un­welcome jazz», which it is: starting out like a limping jazz-fusion shuffle with Eastern overtones and wildly wobbling volume levels, it is then transformed into something that sounds like an intro to a soothing smooth jazz instrumental, only looped to eternity. Yes, it's moody, but so is every­thing Eno ever did.

Overall, it is weird: there is actually much more happening on this record than is usual for Eno's ambient projects, but in the end you are left with the feeling that you got much less than you bar­gained for. Apparently, Enoisms and Wobblisms just do not make good partners — the ambient soundscapes are not in agreement with the bass grooves, and the end product is a disappointment somewhat on the same grounds as Neroli: an attempt to sound harshly modern that still relies on old-fashioned ideas of beauty — a conflict of interests that remains unresolved. But I guess that the very manner in which the record was produced automatically precluded it from potential mas­terpiece status. It's not as if Eno cannot work in a dynamic environment — his work with Talking Heads and David Byrne is best proof that he can — it is simply that here, there was no dynamic environment to begin with, just a bit of quick fiddling about by correspondence. Definitely not essential for fans of either Eno or PiL, I'd say.

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