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Brian Eno - Another Green World CD (album) cover


Brian Eno


Progressive Electronic

3.99 | 331 ratings

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5 stars At last, Eno the Impressionist painter arrives, resulting in one of his best albums and one that even many haters of Ambient music as a concept tend to tip their hats to. Essentially, it's a collection of fairly short "sound paintings" that evoke various images of the peaceful world that lies behind the hustle and bustle in which each of us spend most of our times, interspersed with a small handful of "normal" songs (the presence of which explains why this is still categorized as one of his "big 4" song-oriented albums, even though 75% of the album is instrumental), and as a whole it absolutely 100% works. Some of the tracks aren't as spellbinding as others, and many of them would become rather problematic if stretched to the length of an average Tiger Mountain track, but as a whole the effect is amazing.

Of course, it also doesn't hurt that the four "normal" songs here are absolutely ace, and among the very best that Eno would ever put to tape. The first three each feature Robert Fripp as a guest, and in each case he throws in an amazing solo, but not in a violent "Baby's on Fire" sort of way; to the contrary, he's rather restrained, but still full of giddy, emotionally-charged energy, and is a major reason these songs are as enjoyable as they are. "St. Elmo's Fire" combines an upbeat poppy piano/synth onslaught with an absolutely amazing vocal melody and some of the best vocal harmonies imaginable (the way the multiple Enos come together to sing, "In the bluuuuuuue August moooooooon, in the coooooooool August mooooooooooon" is something you have to hear to believe), and when Robert starts playing after Eno sings, "And we saw St. Elmo's Fire splitting ions in the ether," the effect is simply orgasmic. "I'll Come Running," which comes three tracks later, is a relatively simple pop song full of rolling piano lines, but who needs complexity when you have such a perfect song about what real love is and with such a majestic guitar solo over such majestic synth chords in the break? Funnily enough, Fripp's instrumental credit in the song actually says, "Restrained Lead Guitar," and it's his combination of restraint and majesty here that makes the whole effect so amazing.

Three tracks later comes the album's longest song (at a whopping 4:01), the mellow, downbeat "Golden Hours," featuring Fripp on "Winborne Guitar" and with some bits of viola work from John Cale (who also shows up on the opening Sky Saw). The vocal melody is once again stupendous, the keyboard textures that drive the song forward are amazing and hypnotic as anything, the lyrics are amazing (for some reason, the line, "I can't see the lines I used to think I could read between" strikes me as a particularly inspired line), and Fripp's speedy-yet-delicate solo in the break is something I would never have imagined possible from the man if I only knew his Crimson work (then again, I guess he did play the guitar lines in "Epitaph," but by this time that was a musical lifetime ago, and even then this is way more delicate). And finally, the penultimate track, "Everything Merges with the Night," features one Brian Turrington on bass guitar and piano, with Eno himself handling the guitars, and the way he makes the guitars every bit as entrancing as his synths are in the rest of the album is truly something to behold. It goes without saying, too, that the vocal melody is of jaw-dropping quality.

So that's the "normal" songs, and I still haven't mentioned the ten other tracks of the album. "Sky Saw" also has vocals on it, but it can hardly be lumped in with the four tracks already mentioned, as the vocals are a largely superfluous element on top of a chaotic number (with edgy, unsteady drumming from Phil Collins and two separate bass players) that really does remind me of a see-saw (that happens to also be "sawing" back and forth) floating in the sky, going up and down in a perversely hypnotic matter. The viola section is ace too, by the way.

Of the other nine tracks, a small handful are real standouts, whereas the others, while certainly not hurting anything (and in fact being rather essential for "filling out" the album as a whole), tend to fall into a "huh, that's pretty neat" category rather than a "wow, that's awesome" category. Amongst the "lesser" tracks of this album, I'd include "Over Fire Island," the title track, "Little Fishes" and "Zawinul/Lava"; all of them are either neat or kinda pretty, and they don't go on long enough to get boring (though I'd actually say "Zawinul/Lava" comes a little close), but they don't make me particularly giddy either. To a lesser extent, I'd also include "Sombre Reptiles" in the list, even though the music is really evocative of big Komodo Dragons lying around on rocks (at least, it is in my mind); it's neat, but it doesn't stir much inside me.

The other tracks, however, stir plenty. "In Dark Trees" reminds me of getting lost and trapped in a dense jungle, with only bits of sunlight peering through the dense canopy of trees above, and with a sense that danger is all around me and could strike at any time. "Becalmed" is just pure, unadulterated gorgeousness, mixing a somewhat mournful piano line with synths that do their very best to try and bring a ray of happiness to the proceedings. And the closing "Spirits Drifting," well, that just reminds of that part at the end of the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Fantasia with all of the spirits returning to their graves as night draws to a close.

None of this, however, measures up to the sheer minimalist brilliance that is "The Big Ship." It kinda follows the "On Some Faraway Beach" formula of layering one line after another until the result is pure catharsis, but this takes an even more minimalistic approach (except for the percussion loop Eno sticks underneath), as it uses "stiller" synth sequences (and no vocals) to make its point. It's hard to describe on paper what exactly it is that makes this track stick out so much, but a couple of listens ought to do the trick; it's simultaneously majestic, depressing, optimistic and crushingly powerful. It's amazing what just a couple of well-placed synth lines and a bit of distortion can do ...

What a great album. It gets a little saggy in places in the second half, but that's really the only complaint I could possibly come up with in general. If you have any interest whatsoever in the roots of ambient music, or in creative use of instrumental textures, or, heck, in just plain ole great music (sans any other qualifiers), pick up this album asap.

tarkus1980 | 5/5 |


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