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Brian Eno - Ambient 4 - On Land CD (album) cover


Brian Eno

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This music is touched by the grace! Eno goes further on the territories of ambient music. Surely one of his most achieved album. It takes back the ideas ever developed in his previous cerebral / electronic music but the stress is put on deeply introspect, supernatural atmospheric sounds. Very organic and emotional. Each song has its own feeling, oscillating between intimate, pure delicate moments (as if you are living in a static time) and oppressive, rather dark, creepy or depressed atmospheres. Some of the musical landscapes can be found orgasmic, suggesting an ascension to heaven. I particularly like the density, powerful vibrations provided by the doom bass lines. This album is a real pleasure and an excellent "companion" for dreaming. Highly recommended for meditation or for stimulating the cerebral activities. A landmark of visceral Ambient / electronic music.
Report this review (#38933)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars On Land is possibly the greatest ambient album ever, and is overall one of my favorite recordings. I don't necessarily listen to it all of the time, but when I do it's an absorbing experience. The title is perfect, because the soundscapes really seem to have a physical texture of sorts.

This isn't the kind of album one can play for friends and family, rather one should sit, relax, and listen through headphones or a nice stereo system to get the most out of it. But that doesn't mean it doesn't work as background music. I sometimes listen to it while driving, and I've noticed that many of the environmental sounds around me seem to blend in with the record (which may not be the safest thing while operating an automobile, but it tends to heighten the driving experience).

I know that this isn't what folks think of as "prog", but it's a landmark in the world of ambient works.

Report this review (#149002)
Posted Monday, November 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is and should be used as the definition of ambient. While listening to this album, you are forced into a world created only by your imagination with the music as your guide. The atmosphere created by this album is much darker than you would expect from an Eno record, with virtually no structure, your mind is disconnected from reality. Every song is great, and creates its own unique environment. Unfamiliar Wind is my personal favorite. If you are a big fan of ambient music, with a touch from the dark side, this album is definitely for you.
Report this review (#172122)
Posted Saturday, May 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I wasn't really sure if I would actually write this review or not seeing that it's one of Brian Eno's ambient music projects. But after reading the somewhat biased reviews posted here on the site I decided that it was my mission to share with you the opinion of someone who generally finds it difficult listening to ambient music.

Although Ambient 4 : On Land may not be the first (No Pussyfooting or Discreet Music) nor the most famous ambient album in Brian Eno's catalog (Ambient 1: Music For Airports), still this recording has a definite historic value which in some cases might even make it just as significant as Eno's '70s output!

My first encounter with the genre was when I purchased the 1995 live album by Robert Fripp titled A Blessing Of Tears: 1995 Soundscapes, Vol. 2. This release also marked my first Robert Fripp solo album experience so naturally I had certain expectations regarding to the nature of the music I was about to hear. It can be said with all certainty that I was completely shocked by the first experience because I honestly didn't know what to make of this whole experience. Since then I've been very careful regarding my ambiance music purchases.

Returning after the successful and highly influential collaboration albums with David Byrne and Talking Heads, Brian Eno didn't waste much time and went back to his explorations of sound and loops which he labeled as ambient music. The album marked the final part in Eno's ambient series which began in 1978 with Music For Airports. Due to the ambient nature of this recording the music will sound different to everyone who experiences it but there are definitely a few general points that are still worth mentioning. The atmosphere here is unusually dark for an Eno ambient recording and it might even be considered the first major step into the dark ambient territory which began to emerged in the late '80s and early '90s music scene. Therefore On Land might actually be considered just as much of a landmark album as some of the praised Brian Eno releases of the '70s.

The most surprising discovery that Eno encountered during the work with this particular release was that he realized the limitations of the synthesizer sound which made him shift his instrumentation approach to electromechanical and acoustic instruments. Eventually he went even further with technique by incorporating non-instruments like pieces of chains, stick and even stones! This whole project became so ambitious that Brian Eno even decided to give the listener suggestions as to how one should experience this music. The liner notes of the album feature a diagram of a three-way speaker system installation showing even the exact location where the listener must be seated in order to properly experience the music!

On Land is an album that required some time to get into and I definitely recommend reading up on the recording sessions in between the listening to the album since it aided my experience tremendously. Although I'm still very much on the fence when it comes to ambient music this is probably the closest that I've come to actually appreciating it for what it is and in exchange expanding my musical horizons even further.

I can't recommend On Land as an introduction to ambient music and if you are interested in that then I suggest some of the more melodic transitional ambiance pieces on Another Green World. This is a tough ambient experience but none the less an excellent such and I highly recommend it to everyone who is already familiar with the genre.

***** star songs: The Lost Day (9:12) A Clearing (4:07)

**** star songs: Lizard Point (4:34) Tal Coat (5:27) Shadow (3:00) Lantern Marsh (5:31) Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills) (5:26) Dunwich Beach, Autumn, 1960 (7:10)

Report this review (#275682)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Brian Eno's fourth chapter of the Ambient series, the album where he get's rid of everybody that previously surrounded him and does the album all by himself. So we get a near perfect album, almost as good as the first Ambient "Music For Airports".

"Ambient 4: On Land" is most definitely Eno's darkest album, or at least of the Ambient series. In fact, with this album we already start talking about "Dark Ambient", a genre that will interest especially a few composers of film scores. Other than synthetisers, we can also find field and nature recordings, especially nocturnal sounds that accompany the other instruments, creating in this way, like in the wonderfully creepy "The Lost day", a dark, mysterious and tense atmosphere that Eno was never able to reproduce this effectively. The title of the songs here are mostly places that Eno himself keeps in his heart, places where he used to go in his childhood and early manhood, so the artist gave a bit more of himself in this album, making it one of his most personal efforts. The music also wanted to evoke paintings (Eno was thinking particularly about French abstract expressionism).

I like to think of "On Land" as a dark, mysterious, creepy, at times melancholic and sad, journey through a dark clouded covered rural landscape, like the cover implies. Unfortunately, like I said earlier, the songs, even though they do want to represent places, they represent very precise places, so almost all the listeners of the album have to imagine a landscape that could apply with the music.

Almost all the songs are genius, great pieces of art, from the famous "Lizard Point", very minimalistic, to the masterful "The Lost Day", as well as the creepy vocals of "Shadow", eerie atmospheres in "Lantern Marsh", or the miraculously peaceful "a Clearing". All of these songs, and others, made an excellent album, a near perfect effort that is essential to whoever loves music. 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#355823)
Posted Friday, December 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ambient 4: On Land is far, far better than the material found on Music for Airports. The tracks here are not boring at all, and have a much fuller sonic landscape quality. This album is ambient of the electronic droning and buzzing variety that really sets the stage for great atmospheric enjoyment. I have absolutely no problem getting into this album; as soon as it starts, the light buzzing sets off and creates a convincing imagery of the song-title's demand, whatever it may be.

Though I'm not really a fan of the majority of the work that Brian Eno creates, I have to say that this is most likely his best album. It's definitely the best I've heard so far. Anyone interesting in buzzing and droning landscapes of the highest and most original quality should look no further than Ambient 4.

Report this review (#438077)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the last 'Ambient' album from Brian Eno out of a series of four (so far).

Most of the reviews are rather laudatory and I have to confess that this work is probably the best of what Eno has released by the time. At least if you would be reasoning in terms of prog. But this was not a difficult task since few of his previous works could bear the label. At least, this is how I feel.

The music that is represented in this album is totally spacey but honestly, to reach the heights of some great German counterparts, it should have held more passion, more beauty, more excellence and more melody than the songs presented in this 'Ambient Four'.

It is far much better than the first attempt, but I can't frankly talk (or write) about a masterpiece here. The whole of this album is of good level but seven out of ten is the maximum rating I can think of.

Three stars: a good album it is. But no more according to my standards.

Report this review (#457477)
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An excellent album in Brian Eno's Ambient Music series of releases, here progressing to the use of more sounds and instruments to replicate some of the sounds one might hear in nature, Brian collaborates with only a few artists on this one but the presence of trumpeter Jon Hassell, bass player Bill Laswell, and guitarist/sound experimentalists Michael Brook and Daniel Lanois on individual tracks is definitely a plus. This is such a memorable album for me for the fact that it assisted me on my first journeys into astral travelling and lucid dreaming. The music here serves such a deep and mind-altering purpose (if you let it) as nature sceneries are conjured up by all songs--some in a way that is quite sinister and unsettling--which was quite a revelation for me as a pleasure seeker in my musical choices. On Land was one of the openers to my Shadow side, to the fact that there can be beauty and lessons and learning in the darker elements of life. Perhaps more importantly, "On Land" is the album that introduced me to one of the most unique and "out-of-the-box" artists I had, and have, ever encountered in one trumpeter JON HASSELL, who would, in turn, soon lead me to another artist who changed my life in a very empowering way: David Sylvian (who led me to three other giants of boundary pushing, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Holger Czukay, and Bill Nelson).
Report this review (#459541)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Back to solo; back to suck? Well, not really (and actually, Music For Airports wasn't exactly suck per se), but it's not as striking as either of the two collaborations that immediately proceed this. The liner notes feature Eno going on about various philosophies related to music that evokes "a sense of place," as well as the various aspects that go with these memories, but for all of his various pontificating, I kinda end up wishing that all this thought and production effort went into some more interesting music. I mean, I do like the album for the most part, and it works decently as background music, but it's a smidge more minimalistic than I like even for the ambient genre.

The album starts on a fairly promising note, with a couple of tracks making extensive use of low, rumbling synth sounds not used very much to this point in Eno's work. The opening "Lizard Point" also has a cool spacey feel that's much like what one later finds on Apollo, and while I can't really feel the contributions of Eno's collaborators on this track (this is the only track on the album, btw, that's not credited solely to Eno), it's a fine bit of bleak mood setting. "The Lost Day" is a bit overlong at 9+ minutes, but it has a GREAT menacing theme that repeatedly pops up starting a couple of minutes in, and it really gives a sense of, I dunno, being trapped in a dark place and completely losing all sense of time (hence making each day spent in this place a "lost day").

Following these two tracks is what I consider the peak of the album, the effect-laced "Tal Coat." It might seem a bit disconcerting to have these incessant bleeps and bloops up against sounds of bubbling water and the various synth textures, but for some reason it seems to entrance me just fine. Besides, it has that nice little piano snippet that pops up about two-and-a-half minutes, which gives an unexpected dose of beauty to the proceedings, and the intensity of the synths picks up after this, so there you go.

After this point, though, the album starts to lose me a bit, though absolutely none of it offends me in any way. I can give a half-hearted thumbs up to "Shadow," which combines various Easterny wind instruments playing discordant bits over processed samples of the kind of sounds you'd hear at night deep in the woods, but what comes afterwards has more or less completely escaped me. I mean, the last four tracks all set fairly emotional moods into which I can basically lose myself while listening, but the moods are still awfully abstract, and not much really sticks to my ribs. I like how "A Clearing" has a, well, clearer sound to it than the tracks around it, playing up the title well, but that's about all that jumps out at me. Well, ok, I do get a feeling of mourning when listening to "Dunwich Beach, Autumn, 1960," but that's about all I can say.

Still, all in all, this is a perfectly decent, perfectly solid piece of background music, and one I have no problem giving a solid *** to. Parts of it really suck me in, and the rest of it basically interests me when it's playing, and that's enough for me with ambient. Maybe you might consider giving a grade as high as a *** to an album that just works on that level to be extreme, but I'll just say that I'd be just as willing to listen to this at random as, say, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour or any other *** album I know.

Report this review (#500638)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The culmination of Eno's Ambient series, On Land subverts the purposes of the preceding album - instead of promoting a tranquil, relaxed atmosphere, the music attains a diametrically opposed result through extremely similar techniques. The soundscapes here brood with darkening tension - the landscapes may seem static at first, but soon it's apparent that there's rumblings underground and an earthquake on its way - one which never quite hits, but always seems just about to strike. Cobbled together via synthesisers and sound effects, this album amongst other things provided a blueprint for the early works of the likes of Aphex Twin and other ambient pioneers.
Report this review (#568966)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars Without question this is my favourite Brian Eno Electronic album. All eight tracks are dark and atmospheric with a lot of attention to detail from Mr. Eno. Headphone music at it's best as we drift along in this spacey and haunting trip. TANGERINE DREAM's "Zeit" is maybe a good comparison although this isn't as sparse or as long a journey as what the Germans created some ten years earlier.

I can't really pick out a favourite track as this album really seems like your listening to one long suite even though each song is slightly different, the mood though isn't. Again I love the attention to detail as we hear these sounds that are often manipulated or processed in one way or another while the dark atmosphere floats and shimmers constantly. I just can't give anything less than 5 stars for this innovative and very interesting series of soundscapes. This is one of my favourite Electronic albums of all time.

Report this review (#1178955)
Posted Saturday, May 24, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is clearly the darkest of the four 'Ambient' works from the series, It's a moodier, more organic, darker Eno who plays with a creepy Halloween mask wrapped around his bald egg head. Ready to scare any children who approach his front door.

There's a lot more going on than displayed in the previous three outings. However, it's still very minimal and quiet. There's only hints of melody amongst the sea of bleak tranquility. This is the album where he states in the liner notes that - 'I find the synthesiser to be of limited usefulness due to it having a non organic quality'. Make of that what you will, as I'm sure I can hear many synths used throughout.

Funny little squishes and watery bloops recur on 'Tal Coat' as all the while splutters of analogue tones flitter around like fairies waving wands at the bottom of your garden. This one's on a totally different plane from previous releases. It's more distant and less cosy. In all there appear to be five musicians present which is surprising considering the starkness of sound.

While I much prefer the beautiful 'Ambient 2' with Harold Budd, this reveals a solo Eno, displaying all the talent he undoubtedly had. It's not his best, but I'd have to call it one of the progenitors of 'Dark Ambient'.

The best is left till last with the ultra-bleak 'Dunwich Beach, Autumn' where beautiful decayed piano sounds play a mournful but attractive tune. It's miserable, yet pretty at the same time. I guess most of Eno's work can be described in this way.

Oh and by the way, the frog field recordings are brilliant.

Report this review (#1457654)
Posted Saturday, August 29, 2015 | Review Permalink

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