Album Review -Brian Eno

Brian Eno – ‘Music For Installations.’

This year, amongst the many significant anniversaries for various albums (The Man Machine, Beggars Banquet, Deserter’s Songs – and a Beatles’ album) is forty years since Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. The first in his four-part ambient series, it wasn’t the first ever ambient album (a discussion for another time) but rather, the first ever album to be intentionally created as ambient music. Its long shadow is cast over this release.

Music For Installations really is what it says on the, uh, tin. Whilst some of this has been available before, over the course of 6CDs, it brings together some of Eno’s work for his Installations since 1985. His acclaimed works have been exhibited all over the globe – from the Venice Biennale and the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg to Beijing’s Ritan Park and the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Rather sheepishly, this writer has yet to see or experience these installations first hand – something I imagine will apply to a significant number of other listeners – the music therefore must stand on its own merits.

Generally speaking, it does. Much of this is previously unreleased, or only released in limited form (it’s the first time any of it has seen the light of day on vinyl). It opens with the gorgeous twenty minute ‘Kazakhstan’ and ‘The Ritan Bells’ which divorced from their original context, give the listener the chance to either be drawn to focus upon the music or drift off. It says much about the quality of Eno’s music that taking it at face value, there is enough substance to provide a worthwhile listening experience. ‘Unnoticed Planet’ is another personal highlight, taken from the sixth CD.

As well as the aforementioned Airports, parallels could be drawn with other Eno works such as Discreet Music and Apollo, though these are single disc recordings. It must be said that the work is great listening in small doses – but even over the course of a whole CD it can be a bit much. There should surely be no questioning the man’s talent and his significant contributions to music over nearly fifty years (that’s very definitely contributions plural, by the way). The phrase ‘for completists only’ usually infers a below-par work; in this case, it’s likely to be more to do with quantity and price rather than quality.

Music For Installations is out now on UMC.
Click here to hear ‘Kazakhstan’

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