A project that made perfect sense on paper culminated in another exceptional ambient album. Apollo Atmospheres & Soundtracks collects various tracks commissioned for a film about the Apollo space missions, performed by Eno with his brother plus new collaborator Daniel Lanois. As the liner notes suggest, this music is designed to accompany images of “the vastness of space” on a big screen, compared to what people had seen on their tiny television screens.
Even without the visuals, one can picture space capsules floating by, with closeup shots of the moon’s surface and our own planet seen from miles away. Some tracks, like “Matta” and the “Under Stars” variations, evoke the machinery and isolation, while more melodic pieces of beauty emerge here and there. “An Ending (Ascent)” and “Always Returning” present pretty chord cycles that never quite resolve. “Weightless” manages to sound like a lazy afternoon on a tropical island, while “Silver Morning” is an excellent showcase for Daniel Lanois alone on several guitars.
Apollo sits comfortably between Eno’s ambient brand and his music for films, providing a listening experience that sounds just as good in the background as it does up close. Better still, it works outside the space motif; “Deep Blue Day” was later used as a humorous counterpoint in the film Trainspotting. In a catalog that grew to be increasingly unwieldy over time, Apollo stands out as a worthy purchase.
Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno Apollo Atmospheres & Soundtracks (1983)—3½