Earlier this year I soundtracked a really short film that involves a dying albino great dane and treadmill. It’s a beautiful story directed by the brilliant Dave Meinert. I used a combination of electronica, found sound and piano to evoke the feeling response that the visuals and story so beautifully captured. Let me know what you think.
Brian Eno. As you know he’s a legendary musician, producer and artist. I thought I’d do some deeper investigation and ended up discovering some exciting new things.
I was introduced to Mr Eno’s work by artist James Webb some time in the nineties. My first forays into Eno’s world were from his Ambient 1-4 series. I started with Ambient 1: Music for Airports. From the get-go, I was captivated by the conceptual title, as well as the exquisite gentleness of the album. It was good music to be around. Pop onto the music system, and potter around the house feeling peaceful.
It’s easy enough to find the whole Music for series on Youtube. Recommended, if you haven’t already. Some are better than others.
I’m not an expert on Brian at all, and have no intention of becoming one. It’s partly how huge his output is – 17 solo albums, 8 ambient installation albums, 25 collaborative albums and 40-50 albums produced by him including David Bowie, Iggy Pop, U2, Coldplay. And there are a number of video albums and art installations too. This might be one of the latter:
I digress. My introduction to ambient music had happened to prior to hearing Eno. It was an encounter with Aphex Twin’s sublime Selected Ambient Works II in 1994. A great friend of mine, The Artist, had found it god only knows where. I’d always wondered where the ethereal, otherworldly atmospheres on this album had been beamed from…
Eno’s Music For series certainly hadn’t birthed Aphex’s Cliffs, Rhubarb or Lichen. Had he simply channeled this extraordinary sound from the depths of deep space?
So, to cut a long story short, whilst researching Eno this week, I stumbled across Eno’s 1975 album Discreet Music for the first time. On hearing the first track (the 30 minute long ‘Discreet Music’) – I heard what seemed to be Aphex’s source.
Listen to the first track, Discreet Music, then try Aphex’s Lichen or Rhubarb. They could be the same artist and the same album (even though written 20 years apart). And to my ears, there are rare tracks indeed. I’m not saying that Richard James (Aphex Twin) was thieving. But enjoy the similar sonic. I do.
Technically, the use of reverb and sustain / decay is extraordinary. Notice how the notes never quite seem to end. And there are no hard edges to notes as they are struck. Everything is soft. Eno is using generative technique within Discreet Music, designed around a process that looks like this:
In celebration of his genius I have have tried to look pensive like his photo at the top of this blog.
In early May I performed an improvised ambient show to a classroom full of drawing students at Michaelis, which is part of the University of Cape Town. They drew, we improvised / made noises. I performed the show with the crafty fellows Thomas Glendinning and Greg Abrahams.
Some of it was very pretty, some was quite abstract and noisy. Here’s the initial 10 minutes. Pretty relaxing. You’ll hear lots of pens and pencils darting across paper, plus the sounds we’re making. It ends as we head into the second movement, which was more noise based. At that point Thomas had drawn one of Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards which said the following: “You are an Engineer”. (PS re Oblique Strategies, there’s a great iPhone app for this).
I particularly like this modern composer. Sometimes minimalist, sometimes ambient, sometimes very noisy, and always very sculpted.
So I think I’ll investigate him a bit further today.
I just bought the album SÓLARIS, by Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason. I’m on track 2, Simulacra I, and it’s brilliant. Exceptionally subtle, it’s using very delicate detuning and what sounds like ring modulation.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Who is Ben Frost? I first encountered him via his album By The Throat. It’s first track is Killshot, which is very intense and got my attention. Find out more about him on Wiki. Thereafter I went back and got his two earlier albums Theory of Machines and Steel Wound. I think there’s a definite progression and finessing in his work over time, but it’s definitely worth following his whole journey album by album.
Later on in By The Throat he does a 180 degree turn and produces repetitive, minimalist beauty like ‘Leo Needs A New Pair Of Shoes’. See him do this live at the Greenhouse Studios in Iceland. This is phenomenal.
You can buy his stuff from bandcamp at around 10 Euros per album.
I’m on track six of SÓLARIS, called Cruel Miracles. It’s exquisite and subtle strings, piano, timpani style percussion and perfectly curated ambiences.
Not everyone’s cuppa tea.
In honour of him I have taken a Ben Frost style “jus chillin with my beard” pic for you: