Brian Eno Curiosities Volume 1 Review

Compilation. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Unreleased, unfinished and unrealistic tracks from the Eno lab, curated by his...

Peter Marsh 2003

Brain One's interest in doing things in the present rather than trading off his considerable reputation means he's almost constantly at work in his studio; it's not unusual for him to turn up for a radio interview clutching a new piece he's finished off that morning. That many of these tracks never see the light of day was a source of concern to Brian's assistant Marlon Weyeneth, who's compiled this album from the heaps of DATs littering the Eno studio.

Brian's fans are split by a desire to hear him repeat old glories and a simultaneous longing to hear him do something groundbreaking. It's a lot to live up to. Curiosities sort of sidesteps that anticipation by just presenting the music - no conceptual baggage, no sleevenotes. Just Brian and his machines making some rather lovely noises.

Apart from two remixedtracks from the unfortunate Headcandy CD-ROM (one with trusty old mucker Robert Fripp) and one extended version of a track from The Drop, all of the music here is previously unreleased. It runs the gamut from mechanistic digital funk (slithery basslines, stiff drums and ghostly percussive clatter) to the 'Unwelcome Jazz' of The Drop. There'sspectral ambient meanderings and a spot of the experiments with processed vocalese that he's lately become interested in. There's even a rather beautiful little organ solo, entitled "My Lonely Organ" (Fnaaar).

The thing that unites most of this stuff is Eno's rhythmic sense. Despite his reputation as the Godfather of Ambient, Eno's love of funk and Africangrooves has been as strong an influence on his work as Cardew or Cage. There's a kind of non-funky funkiness (what do you expect from a fifty-something white Englishman?)at work, which gives his rhythmic constructions a distinct personality.

Eno also gets some of the best bass sounds known to man, and that's the key to what makes him so great. In an age where any off-the-shelf synth or software gives anyone access to instant sonic wonderment,he still has an immediately recognisable sonic palette. As he said to Lester Bangs 25 years ago, it takes a day to learn how to use a synthesizer, and five years to learn what not to do with it. Even at its most sketchy and provisional, Eno's music resonates and seduces in a way that little other electronica can. Let's hope Marlon gets Volume 2 together soon...

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