Attempting to recreate the golden yesterdays of Jose Padilla`s White Isle sunsets with the tunes of today.
Beginning with the “Daddy” of everything, music and experimentation, listed below, November saw Virgin / UMC reissue of four more LPs that map Brian Eno`s journey from Art Rock to Ambient. Remastered at Abbey Road, at half-speed, and pressed up as deluxe doubles, spinning at 45 RPM.
Discreet Music, from 1975, marks the birth of the idea. Famously, hitting Eno whilst in hospital, recovering from a traffic accident. An album of medieval harp music, a gift from Judy Nylon, playing at a barely audible level. Eno unable to get out of bed to turn it up. Stuck by how the sound of the room, the rain at the window, combined with the recording. Conceiving a music that could be “as ignorable as it is interesting”. Discreet Music was an experiment in tape loops and phase. The pieces generating, composing, themselves.
1976`s Music For Films consists of short pieces, recorded as soundtracks to imaginary movies (they were only used to accompany celluloid much later). Eno`s “Library Music” LP I guess. It includes classics in the form of From The Same Hill and Sparrowfall.
Ambient 1: Music For Airports, and Ambient 4: On Land, represent the first and final installments of Eno`s genre-defining series. Solo productions, while the two intervening volumes were co-produced with Laraaji and Harold Budd.
Although Eno makes no claim to “inventing” Ambient – he clearly borrowed ideas from a variety of sources – it was Eno who pooled these concepts and gave them a name. It was Eno who packaged them, and got the Rock press writing about them. Consequently making them part of popular, Pop, culture.
1982`s On Land found Eno remixing his own back catalogue in to a new whole. Adding “found sounds”, and field recordings. With Jon Hassell on trumpet, Bill Laswell on bass, and the infinite guitars of future frequent collaborators, Micheal Brook, and Daniel Lanois (for the best write up of On Land check Richard King`s Original Rockers).
1978`s Music For Airports is more tied to Classical Minimalism, and therefore, “prettier”. Its key theme drifting in and out of its “self-generated” duration. More Kosmische than New Age. No doubt borne out of Eno`s stint hanging out with Cluster and Harmonia. He recorded Music For Airports at Conny Plank`s studio, on the outskirts of Cologne. The two of them running long tape loops around varying numbers of tubular aluminum chairs. Resulting in a dream-machine quartet of nine-minute-plus floats, which move through solo piano, sparse idiophone chimes, and multi-tracked choir. Hymn-like synthesizer drones (echoed in the work of, for instance, Johann Johannsson (RIP)). These elements sometimes colliding, sometimes apart. On 2/1, ethereal voices rise and fall in celestial waves, that could pass for orchestral strings.
Transporting Eno`s angels into the 21st Century is Ian William Craig. An artist who deconstructs his songs through a relay of customised cassette-decks. Transfiguring his choirboy tones into monastic chant. Disintegrating lyrical melancholy into requiems of static and shadow. Shredded testimonies to memories that still flicker like flame. Of which, The Last Westbrook Lament is just one example, taken from Ian`s latest long-player, Thresholder, on 130701.
Ian William Craig might be the most striking example of “vocal manipulation” here, but the ghosts of Music For Airports can also be heard in Philip Sanderson`s On One Of These Bends, collected by Seance Centre, and Michelle Mercure`s Beside Herself, on RVNG Intl.
Mercure`s Antarctica pays particular homage to Eno. Her voice, elsewhere on these archival selections lets out subliminal sighs of pleasure, and O Superman exclamations. Set to sine waves and fretless bass. Mercure edits the sounds of everyday. On her short percussive pieces, that are Midori Takeda via Visible Cloaks, the rhythms could well be the looped slapping of thighs. Music is constructed from arguments of destruction – flying crockery, breaking glass, screeching tires. Tongue-in-cheek Synth Pop tapped out on Kraftwerk`s Pocket Calculator. There are nocturnal emissions, and subterranean stirrings, of mysterious machines clanking, gears turning. Leviathans waking. Electro-acoustic Kosmische (on Time Piece). Industrial Funk (on Dinosaur Dancing).
**For more RVNG Intl.-related Avant-Pop also check Colin Self`s Siblings.
One Of These Bends opens with a chorus somewhere in between Eno`s and Craig`s, and then submits a host of audio sources to courageous levels of delay. Birdsong, cello, chimes, vibes, and Spanish-sounding guitar. Samples of raindrops, footsteps on wet sand, and surf. Half-inched public broadcasts, in plummy BBC accents, add an eerie 60s / 70s TV Sci-Fi vibe. Like the very English occult beloved of labels like Ghost Box, Trunk and A Year In The Country. Dusty old spy-themes play out with Angelo Badalamenti Bass guitar twang Noir. Post-Punk Pop songs vie with a Techno of Atari VCS ping-pong bleeps – pushed into overload and distortion. Industrial-edged electronics that mix Front 242 bass-lines with Art Of Noise Close To The Edit percussion.
Seance Centre have also rescued the early `80s Techno experiments of Short Term Memory. Bouncing and snare-snapping, and recalling in places the output of The Black Dog – from the other end of that decade. An electric kingdom of treated guitar, and sentient machines conversing. Tempos accelerating and decelerating from tribal thumping, to sleazy Electro-Soul (think Richenel), to chilled. The track I’ve chosen here, City In Mind, being a bass-heavy heat-haze, whose fluttering keys create an atmosphere reminiscent of Micheal Brooks` Eno-assisted debut, Hybrid.
Bedroom Suck Records dust off and remaster more archival material for their Midday Noon compilation. A set that can be viewed as a companion to Left Ear`s Antipodean Anomalies, since it collects more obscurities from the world of Australian experimental music. Artists such as Free Radicals, Helen Ripley Marshall, and Errol H Trout, having their work included on both releases. Nineteen tracks sequenced like a mixtape. Transitioning between treatments of eavesdropped conversations, frogs, and distant guitar drones. Koto tones, New Age chimes, and tabla. Temple gongs, Tibetan bowls, and trombone. Rainfall, and poetry. Laughter, seagulls, seashells and surf. Gentle string arcs, classical picking, and axes aping sitars. Outback mirages of kalimba and flute. Blair Greenberg`s Gleaming is a Rumba of Reich-ian minimalism and counterpoint.
Sharing chiming, Art Of Noise-y elements with all of the above, but taking them to perhaps slightly more accessible places is Atillio`s Art Takes A Holiday, reissued by Musique Plastique. The press one-sheet suggests that you imagine a meeting between William Aura and Trevor Horn, which is pretty much spot on. This is thirty odd minutes of Fairlight syntheses. Of Arp-bent notes, bongos, and exotic fauna. Fresh water streams, and hushed melodies. Pan pipes, steel drum ripples, and tribal chants. AON`s Beatbox washed up on Crusoe`s Tropical island, with the mellower moments from Malcolm McLaren`s Duck Rock. But I`ll throw in the soundtracks of Vangelis (The City) and Eric Serra (Nikita) , as further points of reference. Wally Badarou for the more energetic Protect Me. Slight Elevation Samba dances around like one of the silhouettes from Raoul Dahl`s Tales Of The Unexpected. Its upright bass tangled up in the Noir Jazz Synth Pop of Anna Domino`s Caught.
The solo piano compositions of James Heather get some largely electronic Reworks, on Coldcut`s Ahead Of Our Time. Static, dark drones and cello, emphasizing their cinematic melancholy. Two string quartet versions drawing out their beauty, and hope. Aparde turn Biomes into a hand-clapping Gospel Techno hoedown. Muted Rave in the manner of Fourtet, or Bicep`s Glue. Chihei Hatakeyama`s take on Blueprint stretches the original until its notes come apart. Fragmented, spinning off into the aether like the evolving / escaping Ai in Spike Jonze`s Her. Leaving behind a fractured and glitched Instagram account of tenderness remembered.
More piano and electronics can be found on Nils Frahm`s Encores 2, for Erased Tapes. Where Talisman is a drone piece, given a sheen of charged crackle and hiss, and the tentative keys of Sweet Little Lie compete with the vacuum boom of studio ambience. The reverb of cavernous Dub. The melody of A Walking Embrace recalls that of Japan`s Night Porter, and as such, inspires thoughts of nostalgia, and romantic obsession. Its theme, played as if alone, with the lights off. Improvised like a wandering thought. Spells is Operatic Trance for a Landcruising, Nite Drive Thru Babylon. A race through Oneohtrix Point Never`s Zones Without People. Neon trails disappearing into THEN in its wake. Where staccato choirs become sirens, and the music an electric reprise of Wim Mertens` Struggle For Pleasure. A storm of polyphonic tides crashing against the rocks of midnight and beyond.
** I`ve sneaked in a teaser from Bartosz Kruczyński`s Baltic Beat 2, due in February, on Growing Bin. Bartosz has three releases lined up – for Emotional Response, Growing Bin, and Into The Light – which I`ll try to cover in more detail as they hit shops.
Brian Eno – 2/1 (Music For Airports) – Virgin / UMC
Ian William Craig – The Last Westbrook Lament – 130701
James Heather – MHope (DJ Seinfeld Yada Yada Remix) – Ahead Of Our Time
Nils Frahm – A Walking Embrace – Erased Tapes
Philip Sanderson – Echo Complex – Seance Centre
Short Term Memory – City In Mind – Seance Centre
Jeff Majors – Baby Daughter – Invisible City Editions
James Heather – And She Came Home (Mary Lattimore Remix) – Ahead Of Our Time
Blair Greenberg – Gleaming – Bedroom Suck Records
Michele Mercure – Dreamplay 2 – RVNG Intl
Atillio – Slight Elevation Samba – Musique Plastique
Bartosz Kruczyński – In The Garden – Growing Bin
Jeff Majors – Yasmeen – Invisible City Editions