Sunday, March 15, 2009

A few days ago, I'd been admiring a very beautiful pencil drawing Betsy had scanned onto her facebook page, a view of her feet just beyond a very pregnant belly (containing twins!), a plate with an apple, spoon and knife nestled just beyond--really an amazing drawing--and was inspired to draw a bit when I got home that day. Which I did (my feet! and surroundings), with so-so results, it's been a while. But I'd also been missing playing my vinyl having had a relative deluge of new releases around, so I picked up where I'd left off and put on Eno's "Music for Airports", today transformed into "Music for Drawing". I guess this is often cited as one of the touchstones of ambient music and, of course, in a sense it is. However, it retains its backbone.

The scores of the four pieces are lovely.

Each of them has a stream-like quality with this odd sort of semi-regularity. It's generally evident from looking at them what kind of structure the piece will take, just the bare bones, an interesting type of graphic score. And despite the dreaminess of the sonic elements here--soft piano, hornlike synth and hushed voices--there's a rigor rarely encountered in most of its purported progeny. It sounds pretty great, I have to say.

The three records here, for my money, are the last things of Eno's I consider first rate. I kept up with his output through 2000 or so and there were enjoyable releases in the later 80s and 90s but they always seemed to be a shell of the work from, say, 1972 to 1982. The price of fame, I guess, and producing vapid pop bands. I've no desire whatsoever to hear the revival of the Bush of Ghosts duo (or an approximation thereof) but the original really sounds as vibrant as ever. Take one great idea (derived in some part from the Reich of "Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain" but taken in an entirely different direction), graft it onto the post-punk latinized funk of 1979 Talking Heads, and it just works. "The Jezebel Spirit" is a small masterpiece, beautifully constructed, the new music twining seamlessly around the paranoid radio host. I believe this is the first time I heard Laswell, as well (couldn't resist).

I saw the video from which the cover images were taken once; I forget where. It was entrancing in an alien kind of way.

I'm always a little bit surprised at how well this one holds up. For all the woozy, gauzy cotton candy it helped spawn, there's something solid about "On Land: that won't go away. Partly, I think, it's the beautiful melodic sensibility Eno still retained (don't know what became of it soon afterward); Jon Hassell being on board doubtless helps. I've often referred, when writing about contemporary musicians who straddle the boundary between field recording and more or less ambient or drone-based music, to Eno and it's usually this recording in particular. Maybe it's nostalgia talkin', but I really think that approach has rarely been handled more deftly. Wonderful sense of languid melancholy.

Always loved this cover among the several of close-up map images.


jesse said...
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jesse said...

Airports, On Land and, to a lesser extent, Plateaux Of Mirror, have endured. I jumped ship after Bush Of Ghosts, reinvestigated and purchased one each from the 80's and 90's- Thursday Afternoon ('85)and The Shutov Assembly ('92)- nothing since.
It's easy, not to say revisionist, to minimize Eno's immense influence (for pap and substantive work). IHM's own Joda Clement makes some music in an area I hear as Eno-lineage.
I bought and sold most of his pop/song-based stuff, never grabbed me. Ditto Roxy Music.

joda said...

Thanks for the compliment Jesse. Nice to know these records hold up for other ears, as I grew up listening to them since before I could talk. 'Apollo' is a winner too, a 'Canadian classic' according to Lanois.

Barry Chabala said...

Three great albums for me as well. I find I get to them maybe once a year or so these days, but when they where new, I they where a big part of my listening world. Airports & On Land especially. Have you heard the bang on a can allstars play Airports live? Pretty impressive.

Brian Olewnick said...

Hey Barry, yeah I enjoyed the BOAC version when it appeared, too. Haven't listened in a long while though.

The other two subsequent Eno things I have on LP are "Apollo", which Joda mentioned, and the collab with Harold Budd, "The Pearl". The latter has one of those great, saturated color Russell Mills covers. Couldn't work up the interest to spin them over the weekend, though. I guess Joda thinks otherwise, but for me "Apollo" was one wherein Eno turned one corner too far into the gauzy for me.

Still, I probably have ten or 12 CDs of later stuff, so I did give him plenty of chances for a while.

I think the last thing I bought was his record with Jah Wobble, "Spanner" (?). Didn't do much for me.

Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

Eh, you'll apologize for "Laswell, as well," but "there's something solid about 'On Land'" goes without comment? (I don't mind; I appreciate humor in criticism.)