Wednesday, February 17, 2010

433. Another Green World- Another trip into Brian Eno's head.


Album: Another Green World.
Artist: Brian Eno
Year: 1975
Genre: Experimental

Tracks

  1. Sky Saw
  2. Over Fire Island
  3. St. Elmo's Fire
  4. In Dark Trees
  5. The Big Ship
  6. I'll Come Running
  7. Another Green World
  8. Sombre Reptiles
  9. Little Fishes
  10. Golden Hours
  11. Becalmed
  12. Zawinul/Lava
  13. Everything Merges With the Night
  14. Spirits Drifting

I'd only just wiped myself clean from a blast of Eno's warm jets a few album's earlier and I find myself listening to another dose of Brian's musical outpouring. That's one of the quirky things about this list: it wasn't compiled to be listened to in order so things don't crop up with any kind of structure they just appear in a random way, which at times means listening to someone right after you've just given them a lot of your time.

Brian didn't enter the studio to record Another Green World with any ideas set down. He rejected the notions of traditional songwriting and pre-planning and instead decided to see what the studio produced. To begin with the answer was "bugger all" which meant he decided to consult his cards. No not his collection of pornographic playing cards, although he might have had a peek or two in between sessions, but his personally created card set called "Oblique Strategies" which contain phrases and ideas designed to help inspire creativity. Using the ideas provided by random selections of these cards Eno created Another green world. And so with this in mind I'm going to write this blog entry using the same procedure. I've managed to find an online edition of the Oblique Strategies (http://stoney.sb.org/eno/oblique.html) which I will know use to inspire me to write this posting. Just like Eno did I'll pick random cards (which the site generates for me) and see where it takes me.

Here goes with Oblique Strategy number one...

"Don't be frightened of cliches"

...okay in that case I'll describe this release as experimental and avante garde. Doing well so far. Next Strategy...

"Breathe more deeply."

...Righto. Pardon me while I take a deep breath break. Right I've really got oxygen into the old lungs now. Not sure if this is helping you appreciate Another Green World but at least you know I'm well oxygenated. Next strategy...

"Accretion"

...What? I don't know what that means. Hang on I'm going to have to look that up. Accretion: "Growth or increase in size by gradual external addition, fusion, or inclusion." Right, well I've learnt something today. So I will Accrete this post by gradually adding something to it: Phil Collins plays drums on this album a bit. Next Strategy...

"Lowest common denominator"

...Hmm. To be honest I think I've covered that already. I've done a golden shower reference and a gratuitous mention of the porno playing cards so there's not much lower I can go. Next Strategy...

"Do we need holes?"

...Right. Do we need holes? I think I can safely say that no, this blog doesn't need holes. Holes suggest an absence of something and if anything this post needs less voids and more actual substance. So far all I've said about the actual album is two cliches with an accretion of Phil Collins. Less holes and more substance required I feel. Next Strategy...

"Honour thy error as a hidden intention"

... to be honest I think that sums up Eno's work ethic. There's no such thing as a mistake. If something comes up Eno runs with it and takes it wherever it goes. Which is much easier to do when making music than it is when typing so it works better on albums than blogs. But in keeping with this idea the rest of the blog will not be adjusted for typos. Next Strategy...

"How Would you have done it?"

...Ooh good question. I would have Smashed every synthesiser in the building with a big bat and then hired a drummer, a bass player, two guitarists and a singer and then seen where things go from there. I probably would have made them play blues covers and Dylan songs. Next Stragety...

"Dno't be afriad of things because they're easy to do"

...well that's a relief. I've always been terrified of children's jigsaw puzzles but with that advice my fears are completely waylaid. last strategy....

"Go Outside, Shut the door"

...Fair enough. With that advice I'm going to end this blog right here. It might not have made much sense but hopefully it's been an insight into the way Another Green World was created. It takes a fairly unique mind to design a set of cards to encourage creativity and an even more unique one to let it dictate the terms in a recording studio. Consequently this is a fairly unique album. I didn't enjoy it much but I'm impressed it even exists.

Highlights:
St Elmo's fire which sounds like an actual song.
Lowlights: Sky Saw, which sounds like an actual song but an irritating one.

Influenced by: A self penned deck of cards.
Influenced: Ambient music in general.

Favourite Amazon Customer review Quote:
"Man, I remember this cat back in my salad days who was studying to be a dolphin translater and he wrote a book with a chapter dedicated to the pleasure of interspecies intercourse. Guess what he had playing in his car when the cops pulled him over for breaking into an aquatic park ... "

-That's a great anecdote. Thanks for sharing.

So what do you think? Does Eno stand for Excellent Noise output or Enough Nonsense Oddball? Let me know below.

4 comments:

  1. A laugh out loud post entry. The card technique has certainly worked to help create quality entertainment on this album review - it inspires me to listen to the album itself, to see if it can be as successful in music production.

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  2. i love Eno. Both the artist and the powder.

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  3. (this is a re-direct from the "Trans-Europe Express" (#253) review comment: http://500horizons.blogspot.ca/2011/11/253-trans-europe-express-please-read.html)

    First off, I love Eno's music, and he is one of my favourite artists in all of modern music. I don't want to go on forever, but I love his music very much.

    This album though, I was kind of (shockingly!) slightly disappointed with. In theory, I should love every bit of this album, from it's structure, to its approach, to the method with which it was created/crafted. The thing is, I think it is better 'on paper' than it is practically. It's just that the music itself just isn't as strong as I would have liked it to be. That's not to say that it's a bad album by any means; it is a very good album, and I do like it a lot; just not as much as I should, in theory.

    One thing I like about Eno's music is the fact that he uses synthesizers as a tool to create warm, inviting and vibrant textures of sound as opposed to using it like such influential krautrock bands such as Kraftwerk do: as a mere instrument to project cold, detached, and computerized noise (even if it is good noise).

    This is especially apparent on this album in particular (with the possible exception of the Can-esque opener "Sky Saw"). Take for instance, the proto-ambient track "Becalmed." Also take a listen to the injections of the warm treated guitar sounds on "Everything Merges with the Night." It's quite a beautiful use of guitar treatments (at least in my opinion).

    Anyways, although I did like the fact that you used the Oblique Strategies (I too was laughing out loud), I don't think that the review gave the album justice as to what it truly beholds (including the incredible instrumentation [esp. by Robert Fripp who almost literally blew my mind when I first heard the riff on St. Elmo's Fire]), despite its shortcomings (lack of melodic strength and lack of key signature variety [over half of the album is in C-major/A-minor; yes I can tell because I have absolute pitch]).

    So, do you have any second thoughts on this album, including, but not limited to, its unique use of synths?

    I will also post a link to Madonna's "Ray of Light" (#363), of which I have similar comments:
    http://500horizons.blogspot.ca/2010/10/363-ray-of-light-not-actually-album.html

    P.S. In terms of the warm synth sound, I have noticed that it is used throughout Vampire Weekends s/t debut album (2008), one of my favourite albums of the 2000s, and I would also want to know what you think of it.

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    Replies
    1. I've listened to this album again since I wrote this review and I think my issues is that it's music created in personal isolation. The problem with talented people like Eno who can play all their own instruments is they tend to become too insular without someone else to really push them. Without other people adding spice to the musical soup an artist can become a bit tasteless. The best tracks on here are the ones with someone like Fripp to give Eno a bit of a push.

      The synths might provide warmth but there's not a huge amount there for them to actually warm. I would loved to have heard Eno working his production magic in collaboration with a more interesting songwriter.

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