Brian Eno

Music for Installations (Astralwerks / Opal / Universal)

Top 10 Box Sets of 2018

What do you buy for the Eno-phile who already owns an Oblique Strategies card deck, the Music for Airports reissue, and the Reflection app? Music for Installations, a stunning 6-CD/9-LP set that collects the best of the 70-year-old Brit's sound installation pieces on vinyl for the first time.

A super-producer (Byrne, Bowie, U2) and the godfather of ambient music, Eno's CV spans back to the early Seventies with Roxy Music, but Music for Installations begins in the mid-Eighties. Much of his visual art stems from television as a light source, first expressed in the 1986 piece "Five Light Paintings," which sounds like 19 minutes of a scrambled cable TV nature documentary. "77 Million Paintings" (2006) remains his best-known installation, which featured paintings projected on top of each other to generate a near limitless combination of images. Previously only available on DVD, the music element to these works invokes the zero-gravity textures of Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks (1983), with sprinkles of the cricket calls lurking on Another Green World (1975) classic "In Dark Trees." The newest music here is entitled Music for Future Installations, four soundtracks for imaginary pieces that progress from the blissed-out, inner-space austerity of "Unnoticed Planet" to the creepy un-lullaby "Surbahar Sleeping Music."

From quirky ("Needle Click") and Zen ("Chamber Lightness") to dystopian ("Kites III"), Music for Installations surveys Eno's myriad musical personalities, but what rationalizes the hefty price tag is an oversized art book. Packed with rare photos and a new essay, the book captures its subject's most ephemeral work in images that will be new to even the biggest fans. It's basically coffeetable porn for ambient music nerds; or, translated to Eno-speak, "Pages to Impress Your Dorkiest Friends With."

****

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