Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Album Review: Brian Eno – Music for Films

It is said that Brian Eno invented so-called ‘ambient’ music in the 1970s. I’ve always found this sort of music particularly difficult to get a handle on, being very ephemeral and fleeting. Many have the opinion that such music is ideal background music. I disagree, I find it essential to actually sit down and actively listen to the music, without doing anything else.

This album, released in 1978 is a series of imaginary soundtracks. All the pieces are rather short and tranquil, consisting mainly of heavily treated electric guitar, with electric piano, and also minimal percussion from Phil Collins. A lot of it sounds meditative, like the type of thing you would hear in a flotation tank (one of my vices). Tracks like From The Same Hill, Sparrowfall and Strange Light are very zen, and many of them last less than 90 seconds, giving them little time to make an impression.

Slow Water stands out, due to the prominence of piano and the general moody ambience, while the likes of Alternative 3 and John Cale’s viola scrapings on Patrolling Wire Borders are quite cinematic and foreboding.

Others like Events In Dense Fog are barely there at all while on the debit side the funky/jazzy bass of A Measured Room sound a little out of pace. It’s not the most engaging of albums, you do have to persevere with it. Scholars of modern ambient music will have heard it all before but for those like myself who are less familiar with the genre it’s an interesting diversion.