A WEEK OF ENO INSTALLATIONS — DAY 1

Readers may have noticed a couple 2018 releases in these pages of late. It’s nice to be able to write about current albums, and doing so somehow gives a more contemporary feel than is really justified, but it is not always an easy task. Several times over recent years I have dropped new releases from the list because either I didn’t know them well enough to write about or, somewhat disappointingly, I didn’t like them enough to want to craft a review. It reminds me of a leaving do (featuring your correspondent in the exit-stage-right role). The job had become toxic. My manager was delighted I was leaving, and somewhat chagrined at the generosity embodied in the gift voucher staff had contributed to (for an excellent book and record shop, in case you were wondering). So disconcerted was this awful person that there was a comical moment when she handed the gift over (after a few vague and insincere words) but was unable to actually let go of the envelope. We stood there, rather like those two characters on the cover of Wish You Were Here, until we both let go at once and the thing fluttered to the floor. 

The quote I shared in my response was chosen from the beginning of Lord Of The Rings and seemed, to me at least, apposite.

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

I must confess that I remember with some pleasure the look of confusion on Gaye’s face.

Some releases can be tricky.

This year, the trickiest by far is Brian Eno’s Music For Installations, a 6 CD (or, if you were rich and/or foolish enough, a 9 LP) set of ambient works collated from Eno’s art shows (and other places) plus some new material.

For months, now, I’ve been straining to get my head around the five-and-a-half hours of drifting electronic tones that comprise this gently epic box. The task I have set myself is to sit down with one disc per night and start writing as it starts playing. That’s it. Kind of like a Writer-at-his-Keyboard Installation.

If you have Music For Installations yourself, try putting on the relevant disc and writing a stream-of-consciousness reply…

 

DAY ONE / DISC ONE

Music From Installations

The opening disc has four tracks and clocks in at 75 minutes. “Kazakhstan” has a filmic feel; I’m imagining an endless dessert with occasional outcrops of orange rock. Kind of like the Mars landscape as portrayed in the Matt Damon film The Martian, which we watched the other night. Good film; engrossing. I suppose I should be reading the Installations booklet so that I have some context for these pieces. Why Kazakhstan? Why not Mars? Though the music isn’t very red. More sandy. Like the new desktop picture on my iMac. It’s very clever… a photo of a sand dune. That’s not the clever bit though, the clever bit is that during the day (and night) the shadows on the dune shift in time with the arc of the actual sun in your time zone. It is entrancing, and if it had this music to accompany it, the effect would be almost magical. I wonder if someone has taken a lengthy series of screen shots and made an animation of this process. Probably.

Looking at the track lengths, they are all roughly traditional album-side duration, meaning that the vinyl version of Music From Installations is a neat double album. But I don’t want to talk about the vinyl. Makes me too upset. Oh, OK then. I ordered it from a German on-line store which should remain nameless but in fact was Grooves Inc. Cost a bomb. Didn’t hear anything for ages and eventually followed up. Oh sorry, they said, our stock control program made a mistake; we don’t have that in stock. We’ll issue you a refund. Which they did, eventually, but the dollar had dropped in the intervening time and that, coupled with the international currency conversion fees banks charge, meant that I was noticeably out-of-pocket. I complained and got a patronising response. Grooves Inc is no longer on my list of music suppliers. Bastards. I need to tune back into the music to soothe that irritation away. Actually more like rage. Fucking bastards. Deep breath… let go of the envelope… exhale.

“Kazakhstan” has given way to “The Ritan Bells”, long shimmering notes that hang in the air. Some of them get quite shrill and metallic, the kind of sounds a science fiction film has just when something nasty is about to happen. But not here. It always settles back into a glazed ambience disturbed only by tiny variations of tone, texture or tintinnabulation…

Next: DAY TWO / DISC TWO

Then: DAY THREE / DISC THREE

 

26 comments

  1. I really want this in a bad way, I will however stay away from Grooves Inc. bastards. I look forward to the further installations to help me decide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is an unusual exercise, but I hope you might get something from the journey, Neil. 😃

      Like

  2. That Bilbo quote is among my all time favourites!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a classic, Geoff!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    This certainly caught my eye. Ironically, I bought the vinyl set back in May but spend most of my time listening to the digital on Spotify. Is that intensely dumb, or what? That 77 million paintings is the one that first grabbed me most. That, outdoors and with the cottonwood blooms falling gently in spring…that’s the stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cottonwood blooms gently falling. That’s nice, and slightly spooky. When I was preparing for this marathon I was wandering through ‘ambient images’ from my life and remembered my German partner taking me to a street lined with some kind of blossom tree. It was like perfumed snow falling…
      Didn’t use the image in the end, but still.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Good one. The perfumed snow falling, I like that.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. 77 Million Paintings gets the spotlight today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        I just got a 200 year old clock working again so for me, it’s the pleasure in its ticking, and that’s it for sound. How Eno is that?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah but releases can be tricky indeed, no matter a right or left stage (pretty crafty usage there, Bruce, btw). The problem with an icon like Brian Eno is that you really want to like what he’s done because inertia is sending you in that direction anyway (Hello, Egypt Station). But before one can even get to that, we have the cussed Grooves Inc in our way. Fucking bastards indeed! But G-d, I love Brian Eno… – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s a very special artist, isn’t he Marty? Vinyl Connection certainly has never devoted a week to one release before.

      (What I heard of Egypt Station was actually pretty strong, which was a surprise!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Before and After Science” literally changed my life, so we’re talking f’n deity here!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Grooves Inc. are now on the avoid list. Bunch of bastards.

    As for the music here, I’be yet to really delve into the Eno catalogue. Still. Too daunting. But I’m intrigued. I might need to go stream Kazakhstan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. … and don’t ask what I’be is. I’m certain I typed I’ve.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Because Eno is so diverse in his interests, his catalogue is indeed daunting. For is 70s sound, ‘Before and After Science’ is excellent. My personal favourite is ‘Another Green World’.

        The ambient material is now a vast sub-category of Eno releases, and this 6CD box doesn’t exactly make it any easier. So streaming any of the pieces that catch your eye from this 6 part series sounds like a pretty reasonable idea, J. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m hoping I’ll end up with a nice playlist of cuts from the box. I’ll be sure to check out the two 70’s albums you’ve mentioned, too… hopefully they can form a good gateway.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. […] Do you have a favourite Eno song? Did I neglect Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)? For more Eno content, check out Vinyl Connection’s Eno week. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for taking the time to review these,Bruce. Lots of Eno on my shelves-none of the “installation” discs. I thought these were soundtracks to art “happenings”. And if you weren’t there,the music was only half of the experience. I like these alot. Ambient 5-6-7-8-9-10.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ted. Thanks for your comment. Like you, I wondered about ‘half an experience’ but figured if Eno expended so much energy putting this box together then the music should be a valid statement on its own. Having said that, I remain uncertain about the relationship between listener and music for this genre. Partially, that was why I set myself the task of immersing my ears/brain in all six CDs across the week.

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  8. “Ritan Bells” I think requires a very relaxed listener. I was not in a relaxed state, and after a while, began to feel like those submariners in the old WWII movies, with a destroyer overhead, listening tensely to the sonar pings, and bracing for the depth charges.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the image, Robert, and know just what you mean. I have a set of CDs by Klaus Schulze with Pete Namlook called ‘Dark Side of the Moog’. One of the albums has a loud, irregular ‘ping’ throughout a 20′ piece. I find it most irritating.

      I think your comment also highlights one of those indefinable conundrums of ambient music – what state the listener arrives in and whether the music seeks to change that state or simply distract. Sounds like the sonar brought out a sense of foreboding in one listener!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Bruce, and you stated it much more clearly than I could have. And this probably requires a quiet room, and good stereo or headphones, not a budget system in a tiny Honda, or 3 w. computer speakers.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. 😳You may be onto something there, Robert!

          Like

  9. Your “Leaving” words remind me of W.C. Fields. He took out an add in the paper every year “Wishing almost everyone a merry Christmas”. I would agree on your recommendations to J. I’ll read on and see where it takes me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Enjoy the trip, CB!

      Liked by 1 person

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