Friday, November 17, 2023

Brian Eno 26: Music For Installations

Starting with Discreet Music and making a leap forward with Thursday Afternoon, Brian Eno has continually strove (strived? striven?) to create music that would enhance a visual experience without overwhelming it. Sometimes he’s created his own visuals, but more often since the ‘90s he has been sought out by established artists and organizations to accompany theirs. This led to his own strides using software to create “generative” music.
Music For Installations gathers over five hours of content from art shows over the decades. Some of it had been previously distributed on rare and/or limited-run CDs or as part of larger book/DVD packages. Collectors will be happy to make room for such rarities as 77 Million Paintings, Lightness, I Dormienti, and Kite Stories, whether procured officially or downloaded from file sharing sites.
Eno’s ambient music is usually hard to describe, and here we have six CDs’ worth to attempt, moreso without the visuals they were intended to accompany in the first place. Possibly because it’s the first track in the set, “Kazakhstan” stands out, a spooky but moving piece devised for an event in that city. Many of his pieces have chiming qualities to them, and not always demonstrated by such titles as “Flower Bells”, which itself isn’t very soothing, not that that was ever the point. “Atmospheric Lightness”, however, is soothing. “77 Million Paintings” gurgles along for 44 minutes, and we could swear we hear voices sometimes, though they’re beyond discernability. They’re more prominent and disembodied on “I Dormienti”, which is almost as long, whereas the three “Kites” pieces seem to vary on that one.
The disc titled Making Space counts here because it replicates a CD that was sold at some of his installations, but it’s much more rhythmic and involved than the other discs, more along the lines of the “juju space jazz” of his mid-‘90s albums. “New Moons” even features electric guitar purposefully strummed by Leo Abrahams, while “Delightful Universe (Seen From Above)” is almost majestic. Finally, the Music For Future Installations disc contains pieces never before utilized, not as “generative” as the earlier discs, and certainly eerie. (Good luck nodding off during “Surbahar Sleeping Music”.)
While culled from a variety of sources over the years, there’s a unity to Music For Installations, and none of it sounds dated. This music demonstrates what kept Eno occupied in solitude (mostly) throughout the late ‘90s and first part of this century, despite his less obvious output following The Drop. The set itself was available on CD and vinyl in a snazzy Plexiglas design, as well as in a more economical CD box, and the simplest of all: streaming. The latter allows the listener to have the least possible contact with the execution, and thus absorb however it works. Probably not best to have on while driving.

Brian Eno Music For Installations (2018)—3

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