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Brian Eno - Ambient 1 - Music for Airports CD (album) cover


Brian Eno


Progressive Electronic

3.61 | 200 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars No progger of note is unaware of Brian Eno. Having written that, I daresay that many of those same proggers of note are naively unaware of the quality of his solo work and the far-reaching impact it has dealt in the realm. I humbly include myself in that dubious affiliation. The list of artists and bands that have benefited from his incalculable talents over the decades is lengthy and includes the likes of Roxy Music, David Bowie, Devo, Talking Heads and U2. Some in the capacity of his generous donation of his musical abilities outright, and some in the sphere of his production and/or technical assistance. In other words, his pedigree is mighty impressive and speaks for itself. However, without the aid of popular hit singles or even a smidgen of FM radio exposure his subtle yet powerful explorations into the aural art of creating ambient soundscapes escaped the notice of most of the civilized world. Like minimalist paintings, the average person doesn't have the patience or time to stop and absorb the intricacies and subconscious appeal owned and projected by his works, thereby missing the beauty they contain altogether. As stated earlier, I am as guilty of overlooking Brian Eno's contributions to progressive trends as anybody else.

The good news (for me, anyway) is that my Eno ignorance came to a halt a few weeks ago when I finally sat down and listened to "Ambient 1: Music for Airports." I had no idea what to expect. Being a lifelong fan of classical music and the calming effect symphonic compositions invariably have on my frame of mind I was hoping for something that might achieve the same tranquilization. What I found was even more soothing than I'd dare desired. I've since read that Brian intended to create sounds and instill moods that could help diffuse tensions and anxieties that seemed to multiply and thrive in environments such as busy airline terminals or train stations and he succeeded brilliantly. If his music can water down that sort of harsh, electric atmosphere of mental stress for the masses imagine what it can do for you following a hectic Monday at your job. While I know that this brand of prog isn't for everyone, I invite you to peek into this separate, frequently overlooked wing of the music building and sample some esoteric wares that will transport your jaded brain neurons to places you never thought possible while stuck in this material dimension. You might catch a glimpse of heaven.

The different pieces have no names to distinguish them, only numbers that indicate where they were to appear on the vinyl LP. "1/1," therefore, is the first cut on side one. On this number (co-written by Eno, Robert Wyatt and Rhett Davies) there is no rhythm track to tap your toes in time to, just beautiful, poignant acoustic piano and synthesizer notes intertwining like effortlessly-rising smoke rings to give one a sensation of floating among the clouds. That expression may be horribly cliché but in this case it is more than appropriate. A profound sense of peace and serenity descends upon the listener as it continues to seep into one's being. Some may get restless with the pace but this music is far from boring if one pays attention to the soft aural hues Brian and Robert apply to the piece like deft paint strokes, demonstrating dramatically that works categorized in the genre of prog don't have to be complex to enthrall. "2/1" utilizes vocals from Christa Fast, Christine Gomez and Inge Zeininger to haunt about Eno's synthesizer. The synth-generated orchestral string section is prominent, giving the notes a liquid quality as if you were swimming just below the surface of a still pond. The vocal timbres lend human warmth to the soundscape that is difficult to describe in words but they add a cathedral texture, a meditative aspect if you will, to the track that is sublime.

"1/2" marks the return of the acoustic piano to the album but this time with more of an orchestral overlay. I especially love how Brian leaves open spaces in his melodic phrases, allowing the piano's ethereal sustain to decay naturally. The female voices are mesmerizing. There is a light mist of pathos enveloping this composition and its tender performance that conveys a deeply-imbedded loneliness as well as any my ears have ever witnessed. Ironically, it is luxurious to bathe your soul in at the same time. "2/2" features a muted horn simulation that grants this piece a glow of royalty and elegance rarely encountered. It reminds me of how maestro Aaron Copland could delicately layer notes upon each other to create delicious chords made up of different instrumentation. There's an other-worldly skill involved in erecting this kind of bottomless yet compassionate music and Eno is obviously one of those geniuses that has the tenacity and forbearance to bring it into being with grace and class. This is a gorgeous album possessing an angelic personality.

Released in 1978, "Ambient 1: Music for Airports" was the first of four in his "ambient" series and I hope to collect more of that quartet of albums in the future. Not everybody will cotton to Brian's minimalist approach to writing and more than a few will find it all a bit tedious after only a few moments but if you'll invest about 40 minutes of your time to inhale all of the incredibly pure, crystal clear oxygen that is contained on this disc I feel certain that you will emerge in a better, more contemplative mindset. You won't regret it. 4.6 stars.

Chicapah | 5/5 |


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