Release Date: May 4, 2018
Record label: Astralwerks
Not long after Brian Eno coined the term "ambient music" in the late 1970s, he generated another Eno-ism with an extended lifespan, one with an appropriately slower dissemination."I want to be living in a Big Here and a Long Now," the producer wrote in a notebook. He thought of his then-recent recordings as sound "suspended in an eternal present tense." Perhaps unconsciously channeling Baba Ram Dass's brand/mantra, Be Here Now, the always-conceptual Eno began to expand his sense of scale. Two decades ago, Eno helped start the Long Now Foundation, working to connect the present moment to the far-extended arc of human history.
It's slightly peculiar that Brian Eno's image these days is more as the great public intellectual of the music world than for his contemporary records. Thing is, for all his wry and avuncular delivery, his provocations aren't always that fully-formed. Trump is a useful shock to the system? Artists should avoid getting jobs? Pop music marked a cultural swing away from individualism? Really? The real problem is that the focus on this wisecracking conceptualism can distract from the fact that he still deserves to be appreciated as a musician first.
Since the 1970s, Brian Eno has composed music for numerous art installations, combining video, lighting, and sculpture with music that is often generative. He initially experimented with tape recorders, overlaying looped musical passages of differing durations, resulting in a constant stream of audio flowing in an infinite number of sonic combinations. He likens this to a river -- something that is always changing, but always the same.
One of the reasons why Brian Eno's ambient music has been so influential is that he makes it sound easy. How many of us have dozed off to Music for Films, convinced that with the right equipment we could replicate the great artist's vision? This new collection of installation pieces should serve as a reminder that most of us are kidding ourselves. There is a clarity to Eno's work that sounds like simplicity, but is in fact something altogether different.