The Eno series has been garlanded with high praise and rightly so...
Daryl Easlea 2003-09-20
It's hard now to imagine the landscape of pop without Brian Eno, ex-glammer, pioneer of avant-pop, producer of repute, the very man for whom the phrase 'pop-boffin' was invented. Set in a discrete (or should that be Discreet?) group aside from his ambient works (although I'm not sure how that would stand up in a court of law), Eno's soundtracks are offered up for a tasty remaster to continue Virgin's rapturously received, reissue programme.
Music For Films from 1976, a collection of 18 fragments of atmosphere, remains the daddy. It is arguably the most quietly influential of all his works. "Slow Water", complete with Robert Fripp's spiralling guitar is one of the album's greatest pleasures. "A Measured Room" is also fab, a minute-long shard of Percy Jones' bass at its slipperiest, with Eno piping some cheesy synth across it: think safe blown in The Professionals, and you are there.
1983's Apollo, in collaboration with Daniel Lanois, is one of Eno's most stately pieces. Written to accompany a film about the US Space Program, its otherworldly qualities reflect a mature artist approaching his work with a craftsman's care and consideration.
Thursday Afternoon, a soundtrack to an art installation, is in many respects, the ultimate-Eno piece. One of his first works created specifically for CD in 1986, it is 60 minutes of ostensibly nothing that creates a beautiful something. Floaty, free and filmic, it is ambience itself. The shifts and nuances after 10, 20 and 40 minutes are painterly. It's not going to rock your world, but it will soothe, caress and lull you into feelings of extreme serenity.
What adds value here is the fourth release, the largely unheard More Music For Films, which gathers together music from the limited edition Director's Edition of the original album, plus Music For Films II. It's not exactly a revelation, but it is pleasantly much more of the same. Virtually all of this material appeared on the Ambient section of the two volume Eno box set in 1993, but no matter. Standing separately, it complements the soundtrack releases a treat. "Always Returning II" demonstrates that through all the textures, he has never lost his flair for a lilting melody.
The Eno series has been garlanded with high praise and rightly so; anything that puts up his oeuvre up for discussion has to be worthy. Whatever he does going forward, the 12 albums that have been re-released over the past year remain his calling card, against which all subsequent work will be judged.