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Brian Eno - Eno Box I: Instrumentals CD (album) cover

ENO BOX I: INSTRUMENTALS

Brian Eno

 

Progressive Electronic

4.08 | 5 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The first of Virgin/EG's 1993 Brian Eno box sets is maybe the better of the two, if not quite as much fun. This one is devoted entirely to his more exploratory instrumental work, filling three CDs with twenty years' worth of sometimes blissful but just as often unsettling soundscapes from an artist who almost single-handedly redefined our perception of electronic music.

Do I really need to fill in the blanks? Eno was beginning to grasp the true potential of the synthesizer even while flaunting his feathers boas in ROXY MUSIC, pushing the boundaries of the nascent technology away from the stylistic overkill and copycat classical riffing of so many keyboard wizards in the 1970s. It helped that he was, at best (and by his own admission) an enthusiastic amateur, and the lack of virtuoso dexterity probably forced him to instead travel the more sheltered avenues of nuance, atmosphere, depth, and space.

All of which are here in abundance: the soothing ambient drift studies, the industrial Post-Rock rhythms, and even a few pioneering excursions into primitive World Music anthropology. But unlike the more lopsided arrangement of the Eno Box II (vocal) compilation, this set is more thoughtfully organized. The first disc looks (mostly) at his extensive soundtrack projects, drawing from all four volumes of his ongoing "Music For Films" (a few of which were not widely distributed, and never on CD). The second disc explores his wide-ranging collaborative efforts, working alongside such notables as David Bowie, Daniel Lanois, Jon Hassell, Harold Budd, the Krautrock duo of Mobius and Roedelius, and of course the Crimson King himself, Robert Fripp.

That's 47 separate tracks on the first two CDs alone, many of them rare, and quite a few taken from alternate- and/or out-takes of more familiar album material. Thus the rollicking "No One Receiving", from 1977's "Before and After Science", here becomes the ominous, throbbing "M386". And the rhythm box generated "In Dark Trees", off the celebrated 1975 album "Another Green World", is reworked into "Reactor". And so forth. Some are complete in themselves; others are mere snippets of studio doodling; but all of them work together as an aural slideshow of the creative process in evolution.

Disc three collects a generous sampling of Eno's longer sound installations, from 1978's "Music For Airports" (which unnerved travelers when it was briefly piped into actual airport terminals) to the near-subliminal "Neroli" (1993). Most are edits, but lose nothing in the abridgement. I mean, let's face it: most of these longer, album-length improvisations work just as well in nine or ten minutes as they do over the course of an entire hour. And you can always set your CD player to 'repeat', to get the full, unexpurgated effect of each selection.

Add a thorough, thoughtful essay by noted electronic musician and author David Toop ("Oceans of Sound"), and there you have it: the perfect gift for all your Enophile friends and neighbors who can't afford to stock their CD shelves with everything the man ever produced (the sum of which would no doubt fill a small room). It might be only the tip of a much larger musical iceberg, but this collection will give newcomers a clear glimpse of what's lurking just below the waterline, and maybe allow veteran fans to consolidate an already overcrowded library.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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