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As celebrated music journalist Simon Reynolds writes, the music he helped create there has influenced generations. It could be argued that Brian Eno is the most consistently creative figure in rock history, someone whose innovation rate over the decades eclipses even that of his shape-shifting collaborators David Bowie and David Byrne. From his disruptive presence in Roxy Music to his alternately quirky and contemplative solo albums, from inventing ambient music to his recent explorations in “generative music,” it’s a career that has, well, careered, zigzagging from extreme to extreme between pop and antipop, between febrile rhythm and near-immobile tranquility. Then consider his panoply of partnerships with other artists – Devo, Talking Heads, U2 and John Cale, to name just a few – as producer or collaborator/catalyst. Eno is also a musical philosopher, someone whose interviews, critical writings and sundry musings about sound, art and culture deserve to be compiled into a book. (His published diary, A Year With Swollen Appendices, was hugely entertaining but didn’t capture the full scope and provocative richness of his thoughts.) “I moved to New York City because there are so many beautiful girls here.” - Brian Eno If there’s a golden period for Eno, though, it would have to be between 1978 and 1984, a period when he lived in New York. Those years represented a surge of musicmaking, collaboration and conceptualizing, with Eno burning through ideas at staggering speed. All through the late ’70s and early ’80s, New York’s art scene and music culture were the climate that stoked his ferment. “I’ve got this feeling that I really know New York very well and will be at home there,” he told Disc magazine in October 1972, on the eve of his first visit to the city. “I feel there are two places I’m emotionally based in... One is the English countryside, where I was born and bred, and the other is the heart of New York City.” There are perfectly logical reasons why Eno would feel a profound attraction to New York. After all, the two biggest influences on his approach to music, The Velvet Underground and Steve Reich, came from here. Eno also intuited that London, pop culture’s energy center during the ’60s, had ceded that power-spot status to New York by the ’70s. Within a few years of the Disc interview, he was spending extended periods of time in Manhattan. Then he moved wholesale and made New York his base for over half a decade. The ensuing period is without doubt the most fertile and impressive stretch of his life’s work, which included not just music but video art as well. Eno fed off New York’s border-crossing artistic energy, while catalyzing and contributing to it. There were also more playful “lifestyle” reasons why Eno settled in Manhattan. “I moved to New York City because there are so many beautiful girls here,” he told Lester Bangs in 1979. “More than anywhere else in the world.” Credit: Ebet Roberts / Redferns His first visit in late ’72 was with Roxy Music on their debut US tour. The next couple of trips he came as a solo artist; the second of these, in 1975, was to promote his second solo album, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Eno was accompanied by Richard Williams, a former Melody Maker writer (and the first journalist to rave about Roxy) who had become an A&R man at Island Records. Williams had heard the buzz about Television, so the two Britons headed down to
Later that month. Ohio. where he accompanied his friends and intermittent collaborators David Bowie and Robert Fripp to a Max’s Kansas City gig by Devo. Eno played them an album by Fela Kuti and declared that Afrobeat was the future of music. the hot hype of the season. he and Williams ended up working with Television on demo recordings that could easily have turned into a debut album for Island.’” recalls Glenn O’Brien. “I didn’t care for the sound he got on tape or the performance much either. Eno’s got a new bar below Canal Street. Eno admitted to enjoying the attention he received as a cult figure operating on the cutting edge of rock.” Brian Eno He planned to stay a few weeks. So we didn’t finish the ‘album’ they wanted those demos to be. who would produce Are We Not Men? in Cologne the following year. Eno had nothing to do with it. During this hangout session they discovered many common interests. except I think he consulted with Maas on the sound system. the first album Eno made with the group.” he told Melody Maker in 1980. (Ultimately it was Eno. painting. Although Eno at this point had zero pedigree as a producer. once the music columnist for Interview magazine and host of the New York cable music show TV Party. Eno met Anya Phillips. taking care of some other pending projects away from UK distractions before heading home in time for his 30th birthday. Bahamas.. band as rock’s future. then immediately crash into a depressive slump upon arrival back in humdrum England. not Bowie. By the middle of May 1978. let’s go. But New York provided plenty of distractions of its own. “Everywhere I go. dissonant. was recorded in Nassau. 1978 to oversee the process. “The rest of the band felt the same way. It seemed like there were 500 new bands who all started that month. Talking Heads first met up with Eno in London in May 1977. Eno was back in New York. Hailing the Akron. modern dance. “The first five weeks I was in New York this time I had 180 cassettes given to me. But the mastering was done in New York and Eno flew in on April 23. She hipped him to “no wave”: a cluster of harsh. A common syndrome experienced by first-time UK visitors to New York is that they’re electrified by the city’s kinetic (and cinematic) energy. it would be not Television but a different CBGB band (also with a TVoriented name) who cemented Eno’s connection to the city. So captivated was Bowie by their robotic theatrics and angular sound. But the results failed to capture the fierce majesty of Television’s live shows. theater. “I happened to be in New York during one of the most exciting months of the decade.” Tom Verlaine once recalled. he took to the stage to announce Devo’s second set of the night. and with whose frontman James Chance she would later become romantically involved).” Through Maas.” It was an inauspicious start to Eno’s New York period. both musically and intellectually. whom Phillips managed. Eno refused to unplug. “The first time I heard of the Mudd Club somebody said. Ultimately. and it would be seven months before he returned to Britain. No wave had emerged with the express intent of making the . he was ensconced in an apartment in Greenwich Village subletted from Steve Maas who owned and lived in the apartment upstairs and was in the process of launching the soon-to-be-legendary Mudd Club.” But he spoke also of the stimulating conversations he was enjoying thanks to the crosstown traffic between different fields of art – music. who was involved in the initial conception of the Mudd Club. Recalling his first substantial sojourn in New York. uncompromisingly experimental groups (among them The Contortions. people are running up with cassettes.) As for Talking Heads.CBGB to see them perform. He suggested that this was a direction he and Talking Heads could jointly pursue. More Songs About Buildings and Food. Bowie vowed to produce their debut album in Tokyo later that summer. “Actually..
first-wave CBGB punk bands seempassé and mired in rock ’n’ rolltradition. aqueous sound applied to certain songs on Are We Not Men or More Songs About Buildings and Food.” Yet Eno-fication is strikingly absent from the compilation No New York.” But although there was a mutual admiration pact between Eno and the no wavers (who revered their patron for his work in Roxy Music and his solo output). emotion-driven new wave songsmiths like Elvis Costello. he proposed the idea of a compilation to Island Records focused on the four key groups in the scene: Mars. contrasting their approach with that of expressionistic. Eno attended a five-day festival of no wave bands at Artists Space. DNA. There’s nothing of the blurry. they approached music-making with a conceptual mindset and a dilettante’s disregard for craft. a gallery in Tribeca.” she said.” says Chance. the most forbiddingly abstract of the no wave outfits. “Brian said. Credit: Julia Gorton Eno had plenty in common with the no wavers. “It seemed like there were 500 new bands who all started that month.. “[No New York] was done totally live in the studio.’” As a relative veteran of the music industry. ‘Nobody would sign that but a desperate man. Impressed by the music’s extremism.” DNA’s Arto Lindsay was actually infuriated by Eno’s hands-off approach: “He was reading some studio instrument magazine while we were recording and I wanted to throttle him!” Lindsay hastens to add that “Eno is a fabulous man. especially the proto-ambient directions he pursued on Another Green World and Discreet Music. in terms of music.. Lunch speaks warmly of Eno today but at the time she made a number of public jibes. Mars. I was dead broke.” Eno said. “Having that territory staked out is very important. ‘This is as far as you can go in this direction.” he said. it stretched from deadpan nihilism (James Chance) and tortured expressionism (Lydia Lunch of Teenage Jesus) to explorations of psychotic states (Mars). “You achieve a synthesis by determining your stance in relation to these signposts.” Eno informed New York Times critic John Rockwell in July 1978. There was a huge gulf between no wave and Eno’s alternately quirky and placid music. The Contortions and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks.” Eno recalled. He was generous. there were big differences too. Lyrically. the Velvet Underground) generated “a vocabulary” of ideas that later artists could use in more palatable ways and that could ultimately become the basis of mainstream pop in the future.” In the first week of May. “They say. Intuitively he grasped that no wave was destined to be a brief spasm of unsustainable intensity that needed to be documented before it passed. In another 1978 interview with Creem. No wave was based around an aesthetic of assault and confrontation. which clearly bore Eno’s production fingerprints.. It’s kind of nauseating. so it sounds like helicopter blades.. Like him.’” No wave pioneers (and even earlier.’ James immediately signed it!” . just like a document. he praised no wave using terms and concepts that he clearly would like to have seen applied to himself. “It’s like drinking a glass of water.” Eno recalled that he put an echo “on the guitar part’s click and used that to trigger the compression on the whole track. benefited from a smidgeon of Eno’s studio sorcery: for “Helen Forsdale. “The New York bands proceed from a ‘what would happen if’ orientation. Eno also dispensed advice: Lindsay recalls Chance showing Eno a contract that he’d been offered by Michael Zilkha of ZE Records. describing Eno’s music as “something that flows and weaves. Most came from art-school backgrounds similar to his own. but it’s very smooth going down. “I happened to be in New York during one of the mostexciting months of the decade. These “research bands” take “deliberately extreme stances that are very interesting because they define the edges of a piece of territory. and he was such a gentleman he would call me up and say ‘I’ll buy you lunch. It means nothing.
“We took instruments out. “We kind of deconstructed it.” that proved to be most prophetic. No wave had already splintered. The legend of no wave has swollen over the decades. even wearing similar clothes like some post-punk Gilbert & George. But the record would gradually accrue cult status. added other sounds. replayed bits. ethnofunkadelic polyrhythms. originally titled “Electricity.” the opening track on Fear of Music. Bassist Tina Weymouth acidly claimed the pair had merged into a symbiotic unit.” recalls Byrne. It bore Eno’s clear imprint. which was what ended up happening with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Remain in Light. Eno and David Byrne Credit: Ebet Roberts / Redferns The first manifestation of his new obsession was “I Zimbra. “I Zimbra” was pretty much the reprise of what Eno had done on “Kurt’s Rejoinder” from his 1977 solo album Before and After Science. The burgeoning friendship between Eno and Byrne didn’t just unsettle the balance of creative power within the band. he had the germ of a new approach in his head: the merger of hypnotic dance rhythms and found voices. in part because of intermediaries like Sonic Youth (as Eno predicted. We had musical . Remain in Light. he had taken with him a recording of British dialects and become fascinated by the “redundant” information in these heavily accented utterances. It became a mixture of a live band and sound collage.” Bassist Tina Weymouth acidly claimed Eno and Byrne had merged into a symbiotic unit. with most of the groups heading toward more accessible music. the movement has also come to represent a musical moment of uncompromising purity. Through immersion in Fela and P-Funk. even wearing similar clothes like some post-punk Gilbert & George. something that he thought could be combined excitingly with dance grooves.” in the conventional way but couldn’t get it to work. then built it up again with new stuff. ‘Nobody would sign that but a desperate man. But there was a problem with the “studio as compositional tool” concept.“Brian said.’ James [Chance] immediately signed it!” . Talking Heads tried recording the song.Arto Lindsay At the end of 1978. Montreux and Bangkok. In the winter of 1978–79. “Drugs. Eno went peripatetic. But it was Fear’s closing track. sort of) applying its innovations to pop and rock music. as much for the challenge of getting hold of a copy as for the challenging music on it. Regional cadences meant that the speech contained its own musicality. When he returned to New York in the spring to work on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. No New York slipped out into the world via Island’s jazz subsidiary Antilles to meager fanfare. No wave – which lasted barely two years and whose bands didn’t make many records or find many listeners in their own time – has been the subject of no less than three lavishly illustrated books in recent years. he had turned on to the idea of densely layered. tore it down to its basic elements. London. from the Afrobeat-style percussion to the use of sound poetry (originally written by the Dadaist Hugo Ball but here incanted by David Byrne). at least when applied to a rock band: it empowered the composer (the producer/arranger) at the expense of the musicians. albeit using a different Dadaist (Kurt Schwitters). Eno and Byrne’s expanded authorial role on “Drugs” effectively relegated the other members of Talking Heads to session-musician status. something that caused enormous friction on the next album. both solo and in his increasingly collaborative partnership with Talking Heads. So Eno and Byrne took the accumulated takes and effectively remixed the song into existence. Byrne himself talks about the relationship as “mutually beneficial and codependent in a way. spending time in San Francisco. On his Thailand vacation. it frayed emotional ties. This merger of found voices and trance rhythms would become the governing concept for much of the music he made in the next few years.
” Eno expounded on his new theories in July 1979 when he gave a lecture entitled “The Studio As Compositional Tool” at the New Music New York festival. . He was profoundly influenced by Reich’s repetition and use of tape-delay loops. In both cases Eno’s role largely consisted of creating the ambience in which the compositions were situated. Eno fit perfectly smack in the middle of all this. Philip Glass. Ontario. just like emerging downtown composers Arthur Russell. his collaboration with Harold Budd. Peter Gordon and David Van Tieghem. t’ai chi. or Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham. gamelan ensembles. We’d invent a whole culture to go with it. when one day he opened them to see that someone had left a message in his busker’s hat. video. is based on Laraaji’s mental image of New York’s Central Park Reservoir on a moody winter day. which he then adapted and electrified. and his beloved zither and hammered dulcimer – put the listener “in touch with the higher presences. but also embraced dance rhythms. He came to believe that metallic chimes – bells.” the final track on Radiance. Laraaji had been playing in the same spot in Washington Square Park for a few years. Village Voice’s Tom Johnson identified two distinct waves of downtown music: the founding minimalist elders (Steve Reich. and Eastern philosophy (he currently holds workshops in laughter therapy). The Plateaux of Mirror. A spiritual seeker exploring yoga. Robert Ashley) and a new generation forging connections between composition and popular music (like Laurie Anderson. sitting always in the lotus position with his eyes shut. get you outside linear time. Reporting on New Music New York. and the soundsculpting possibilities of the recording studio.” he explains. But Plateaux and Radiance – Ambient 2 and Ambient 3 in the series of releases launched by Eno’s Music for Airports – have a certain uncanny edge.” . Both projects prefigure the preoccupations that would lead to Eno’s other supreme masterpiece of the New York era: 1982’s On Land. this ten-day event was a triumphant end-of-decade celebration of a varied yet cohesive movement of downtown Manhattan composers defining themselves against the uptown classical music establishment (where European-style dissonance still held sway). Laraaji’s quest for “cosmic music” had taken a decisive turn in the mid-’70s when he traded his guitar for an autoharp. Around that time Eno also produced Day of Radiance by Laraaji. the other major strand of Eno’s musical output during the New York years consisted of idyllic-yet-eerie ambient soundscapes. who used elements of performance art. began with the LA-based pianist sending his compositions to Eno in New York. harmonizer and other studio techniques to smudge the edges of the sound into oneiric soft-focus. while “Meditation #2. into a trance state. but the actual recording was done in late 1979 in a studio in Daniel Lanois’ studio in Hamilton. Terry Riley. Alongside the polyrhythmic groove music he made with Talking Heads and David Byrne. who deployed amplified electric guitars). a zither player he discovered in Washington Square Park. Plateaux’s track titles – “Above Chiangmai.” “Among Fields of Crystal. using reverb. Hosted by The Kitchen. and electronics.David Byrne In their post-Eno careers Budd and Laraaji would both go on to make music so tranquil and gently rhapsodic it verged on New Age. with the sleeve notes and everything.things to gain from one another – each one could offer something slightly different to the other. cymbals. gongs. “We would hole up and make fake ethnographic records.” “Wind in Lonely Fences” – speak of Eno’s mounting interest in creating the musical equivalent of landscape painting.” “In Tibet they are used to break up concentration. electric noise. “It was from Brian Eno and it said ‘Would you like to meet to consider a recording project?’” he recalls.
” Working in Los Angeles and San Francisco for a while before returning to New York. Initially titled Melody Attack. Hassell played Eno and Byrne field recordings on ethnomusicological labels like Ocora. talking and exchanging records. sculpting down “this barrage of instruments playing all the time.” But gradually.” In August 1979. Byrne and Eno added an extra element to the mix: alongside field recordings (Muslim devotional singing. this connection with hip hop would be forged not in New York but when the duo were out in LA. uniting different cultures. with the sleeve notes and everything. would involve either ambient imagery (close to stationary) or dance (extreme kineticism). the album was conceived as a three-way collaboration. In a way. because ambient images would become like décor while the fluid intricacy of experimental dance would be so sinuously complex you could never get bored with it. “What was so weird was that at first I thought I’d wasted my money. some of the music we were making we thought was slotted for her to use in a television program with these dancers. “We’d invent a whole culture to go with it. the gospel chants of Sea Islanders off the coast of Georgia). It gives intimations of a new kind of international multiidiomatic music that would cross all commercial lines. a sense of real itching rage and desperation. This proto-sampling approach would be hugely influential on later sound-bitebased genres like hip hop and jungle. raga-influenced music Eno had encountered when the trumpeter/composer performed at The Kitchen that summer. Ironically. Profiling Eno for Musician toward the end of 1979. European experimentalism and gutbucket funk. Indeed.” Eno thought that the future of video. Lester Bangs got advance glimpses of the work-in-progress: “It sounds like nothing we’ve ever heard from Brian Eno before. Byrne recalls “all hanging out together.” says Byrne. Hassell’s knowledge of exotic ethnic sounds and his concept of “fourth world music” (hi-tech modernity meets pre-industrial tribalism) would be massively influential on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Also contributing to the dense mix of sound was Van Tieghem – whom Eno had seen doing a gizmo-based piece called “A Man and His Toys” at New Music New York – and two bassists: Tim Wright from DNA and Bill Laswell. “She was working with this street dance group the Electric Boogaloos and was going to do a whole show based on popping and locking. period. But it never happened. a form with which he had just started to experiment.” an audio concept emerged of a “jungle music” sound. the past and the future. Hassell and Laraaji were both present at the first sessions for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.” At his Tribeca loft. “I just couldn’t understand it at all. The idea emerged that “we would hole up and make fake ethnographic records. Both would be endlessly rewatchable. Brian and I thought it was the most amazing dancing we’d ever seen. like nothing ever heard before. The influence of the move to New York is unmistakable: a polyglot freneticism.. What’s less well known is that Bush of Ghosts was itself influenced by very early hip hop – more so breakdancing than early rap records. they found themselves increasingly obsessed with the ranting and raving of talk-radio hosts and evangelists.” Eno would wryly comment of these early sessions.Another inspirational collaborator Eno hooked up with in 1979 was Jon Hassell. “Brian and I met Toni Basil. the album quickly became a pop version of the ideas being explored on Bush of Ghosts – ideas like the Felameets-Terry-Riley’s-In-C approach of “having lots of instruments all playing very simple parts that mesh together to create a complex track. Byrne and Eno’s work on Bush of Ghosts was interrupted when they joined the rest of Talking Heads during the sweltering hot New York summer of 1980 to start work on the group’s fourth album..” as Eno explained to one . embedded in a spacious widescreen production he’d never achieved before. a choreographer who later had a hit single with ‘Mickey. then in playing Zu Band (later to mutate into Material).’” recalls Byrne. whose post-Miles.
’” Whether it was as clear cut as that – after all. except that in this case Eno would be in charge. verging on rapping in sections of “Born Under Punches” and “Crosseyed and Painless. The inverse ratio between the creative fulfillment of the band and that of the producer had been apparent to Eno as early as More Songs. Those frustrations would take on a bitter edge when My Life in the Bush of Ghosts came out within a few months of the extravagantly praised Remain in Light. Roles became fluid and uncertain. producing material to be assembled into constructions by Eno and Byrne. Despite his steering role in the project. an album whose genesis can be traced back to the Material sessions of January 1981. Even Byrne himself had to change his approach: rather than go into the studio with written songs.. worse. resulting in music so complex that its live performance required the expansion of Talking Heads into a nine-piece. . Fear of Music was better still because “there were even fewer complete songs” at the start of the recording process.” On the shimmering dreamscape “Seen and Not Seen. There was also a kind of deconstruction of the band itself.interviewer. Remain in Light was an artistic triumph. his symbiotic other half – started to suspect that he was trying to turn to the group into a new Roxy Music. chanted melodies to suit the roiling rhythmic density of the new direction.” Unfortunately this methodology reduced the other Heads – Weymouth. Although Bush of Ghosts is now revered as a groundbreaking classic. His vocals became increasingly percussive.Michael Beinhorn “One day in early 1981 I arrived at the studio and Eno was on the couch. at the time it received a mixed critical response. neo-imperialistic appropriators of world music.” . leading to the formation of a “group mind. suffering from a post-Remain backlash and having its thunder stolen by the innovative Talking Heads LP. Remain was the culmination.” The members of Talking Heads – even David Byrne.. “Eno was on the couch reading the English music papers and he had the most downcast expression on his face. reciting the story of a man who learned to change his facial appearance by willpower.” recalls Material keyboard player Michael Beinhorn. not Bryan Ferry. then participating (with his band mates) in an amorphous Eno project. he’d already been making ambient music and ethno-grooves for years – it does seem that the lukewarm response to Bush of Ghosts encouraged Eno to move even further from song-based pop forms and into atmospheres and soundscapes. but it got delayed due to sample-clearance issues). drummer Chris Frantz. but it was also a disaster: pushing for the new direction and assuming a vastly expanded degree of creative control. a recording identity” with Eno at the center. That trajectory reached its pinnacle with the ambient On Land. and keyboard player Jerry Harrison – to raw content generators. (Originally Bush of Ghosts was meant to come out first. ‘I’m never going to make rock music again. he improvised clipped. “The songs that were least complete going into the studio came out best for me. Eno irreparably damaged what he had earlier described as “the best working relationship I’ve ever had within rock music. Some critics accused Byrne and Eno of being cold-blooded eggheads and.” he told Melody Maker of that album. “He was reading the English music papers and he had the most downcast expression on his face. “For example. with bass parts being provided by people other than Weymouth. there were five or six basses on ‘Born Under Punches’ each doing simple bits. Eno had his own misgivings about Remain – he felt the album could have been taken much further. My sense is that Brian at that point decided. The reviews of Bush of Ghosts were out.” Byrne abandoned singing altogether.
I don’t think it’s miserable but it’s definitely a sort of lost place in a lost time – nothing has changed in this part of England for many hundreds of years. Maybe it’s in there as halfspeed tapes or processed in some way.” Most likely the co-credits are Eno’s way of honoring the first stirrings of a direction that developed during the month-long session.” It was virtually the same sound that he’d generated using a Fender Rhodes electric . however. enabling him to equip the place. Ontario and London – much of the work for On Land was done in this mini-studio. But the African mise-en-scène that was the backdrop of the Brooklyn session faded as an inspiration. The album’s working title was Empty Landscapes. while “The Lost Day” featured a “little bell sound” that worked on Eno like the aural equivalent of Proust’s madeleine. a nostalgic direction influenced by Fellini’s Amarcord. a residue of the Remain/Ghosts phase. Eno gave aspiring producer Bisi. the landscapes gradually took on a decidedly English atmosphere. He titled “Lantern Marsh” after a phosphorescent marsh in East Suffolk that he had seen on a map but never actually visited.” His goal was to create a heightened version of this landscape from memory. the savannah.On the first day of those sessions – which took place at the newly equipped studio in Red Hook. Leeks Hills was a forest in which he used to play. and promptly set up projectors all around the room. On a Christmas visit to his parents in Suffolk he discovered the reason he was attracted to it and why it affected him so much: he went for a windy walk along the River Deben and heard the sound of “the metal guy wires banging against the [metal] masts of the yacht.” he told Musician. “It’s a very bleak place and most visitors find it quite miserable. Other titles and sounds had actual memories attached to them.” Beyond musical affinities. asking if I had white sheets because he wanted to project images on the walls. but also familiar and comforting. Eno turned up in a cab with his German friend Axel Gross.” recalls Material’s soundman Martin Bisi. heard on “Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills). a month’s advance. in-demand producer) and he annoyed the typically calm and mild Eno so much that he hurled a chair. “The idea was to play music and record surrounded by images of animals like impalas and water buffalos. then only 18. Material bassist Bill Laswell would ultimately make ambient records himself but his background at that point was playing in Southern funk bands and he couldn’t get into the Eno vibe.” but Beinhorn says.) Instead. Eno created his own workspace in his new apartment. was an amateur sound engineer in those days (he would later become an accomplished. with its dreamlike re-enactment of small-town life in 1930s Italy. whose résumé includes experimental post-punk projects Les Vampyrettes and Biomutantes. “I can’t pick out a note that actually comes from me. Eno had opted to work from the group’s base in Red Hook because of a longstanding inclination to avoid expensive recording studios.” “That mood is very much a feature of the environment where I grew up. Brooklyn – Eno arrived with photographic slides he had purchased that morning at the American Museum of Natural History. partly by using audio tricks that were non-naturalistic (a 70-second echo. by his own admission. for instance). “He called me on the way over. Landscapes too – Kilimanjaro.” The session wasn’t very productive. After that session. Upon its release in 1982. a large loft on Broadway and Broome that he bought with his girlfriend Alex Blair and their cat PooPoo. “a nice kind of spooky. Laswell and Beinhorn are actually given co-writing credits on “Lizard Point. Although there were other sessions at proper studios – in New York. (Eno had even talked to interviewers at the time of wanting to move to Africa. Eno described On Land as an attempt to conjure the atmosphere of the Suffolk countryside of his childhood: desolate and melancholy. where time-is-money pressure could paralyze creativity. One thing that definitely made it onto the record was a tape of frog sounds recorded in Honduras by Laswell’s friend Felipe Orrego. Bisi.
” she said. spending most of the day in his apartment holed up in the small studio. “Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan.” “He doesn’t like sitting around gabbing. where his senses were assaulted by strange smells and sounds. read and think.” so close to Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu.. You can easily live in New York and just see the mess of it. diaphanous music soundtracked his first major video work.a desire to make a quiet place for myself. watched inattentively or not at all.. which he described as “a sort of sacred space somehow. closer to perfume or incense than a narrative-based art form.” London had been that place. huge complex town in the middle of nowhere.. Hence the title “The Lost Day. My solution to this problem was to take the video away from being a short film.” Eno had started messing with video back in 1979.” Recalling “Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan” in a 1989 interview. Eno also used a Polaroid snap of “video feedback. The idea of New York as a “strange. to transform New York against its will into a more tranquil and ethereal place. now it was New York.” But in truth they seemed to be more simply a product of homesickness. He was interested in creating “video painting”: something that could be left playing in someone’s living room. I wanted to make it mysterious again. But that just gives you a blur. Eno decided that to survive in the city he needed to imaginatively transform the place into something less overwhelming. Picking up on this cloistered vibe.piano played extremely softly. “You can easily live in New York and just see the mess of it. he was a Suffolk native raised amid the “aloneness” and “very slow pace of things” that characterized that sparsely populated coastal region of eastern England. I wanted to make it mysterious again. as on the cover for Bush of Ghosts. directors of pop videos misguidedly believed that “to make a thing interesting [they should] put more and more action into it. and turn it into something beautiful to look at. His first installation was accompanying a Frippertronics performance at The Kitchen (Robert Fripp dubbed it “video Muzak”). Both the audio and video reflected a desire to slow down the city’s hyped-up metabolism. like a picture. The word “mediaeval” was a sideways allusion to an experience of culture shock and stimuli overload in Chinatown.” He would tinker with music. which takes maybe five watches to work out. medieval. He started to lead an increasingly reclusive life.” Alex Blair spoke of Eno’s “social claustrophobia. a little story. They evoke in me a sense of ‘what could have been’ and hence generate a nostalgia for the future.” created by pointing the camera at its own monitor. According to Eno.” which comprised glacier-slow images of the New York skyline at sunset captured from the window of his downtown apartment.” Some of On Land’s glinting. The early roofscape work was also shown at Grand Central Terminal in early 1980 and at LaGuardia Airport to accompany an airing of Music for Airports. Eno said. it seemed that all the things he . suddenly made the place tolerable for me. working (like ambient music itself) as a tint in the environment. after all. People magazine’s Arthur Lubow described a typical day in the life of Eno as “self-indulgent and monastic. By the ’80s. a sound that tugged at his buried memories with uncanny power. experiment with perfumes (one of his obsessions). and after that you don’t want to see it again. “Like the music that accompanies them. Back in 1972 Eno had told Disc that he’d “always been attracted to whatever place on the planet seemed to be the center of the most tension and energy..” and wrote of his music’s drift toward “an Arcadian kind of yearning. The concept was hatched partly in opposition to how rock videos had evolved. the films arise from. While still living in downtown New York – and even dabbling a little on Wall Street after eavesdropping on brokers’ conversations at the gym – Eno was little by little absenting himself from Manhattan.
Thursday Afternoon. a form of mental crowding threatening to his own creativity and equilibrium. His last North American musical projects – Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. shot in San Francisco and designed to accompany his most vaporous ambient album yet.once found so magnetic about New York – the border-crossing conversations. Ontario. There was also a video painting of a nude woman. and The Pearl. In the middle of 1984. Brian Eno returned to his homeland. Then a burglary at the Broome Street apartment sealed the deal of his utter alienation from New York. . made with Harold Budd and Daniel Lanois – were both recorded in the relative seclusion of Hamilton. the musical ferment – had become negatives. made to accompany Al Reinert’s film about NASA and the moon landings.
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