The Austin Chronicle


Gift guide

Reviewed by Michael Chamy, December 17, 2004, Music

Brian Eno

Discreet Music (Virgin/Astralwerks)

Brian Eno

Ambient 1: Music for Airports (Virgin/Astralwerks)

Harold Budd & Brian Eno

Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (Virgin/Astralwerks)

Brian Eno

Ambient 4: On Land (Virgin/Astralwerks)

It's difficult to gauge music that is, by Brian Eno's own definition, as "ignorable as it is interesting." Yet with the proper balance and ear, the straddling of ambient music's fine line can be the most enriching of all musical experiences. Take Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, Eno's 1980 collaboration with pianist Harold Budd. Budd's deliberate, impressionistic melodies open the gate to a world of colors, textures, and images. The moody sound sculptures Eno builds by treating and overlaying Budd's piano refract the emotion of the original melody, causing a prism effect. The result is wet with connotation; a panacea for a dim day or the conduit for a floodgate of buried sensations. It's the furthering of an aesthetic Eno launched in 1975, when he emerged from his glam-rock cocoon with the minimalist landmark, Discreet Music. The method is madness: A pair of simple melodies of different duration fed through a customized digital echo system, left alone to repeat save for the occasional adjusting of timbre. The resultant soft melodic lines fade into the background only to reemerge as new and wonderful combinations wafting through the thick, contemplative air. The oft-discussed Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) is similar, a gentle piano melody decaying into the sunset. Angelic voices come into focus, only to softly fade and shift. With 1982's Ambient 4: On Land, Eno made his most pure ambient album, an intermingling of sampled atmospheric field recordings and ominous, synthesized drones. Ambient 4 is a musical roadmap of locations Eno visited, in reality or his subconscious. It was terrain later expanded on by dark ambient and New Age composers such as Robert Rich, Steve Roach, and the mighty Zoviet France. A moment of silence for Mr Eno!

(Plateaux of Mirror) ****

(Music for Airports; Discreet Music) ***.5

(On Land) *** 

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