Musings on music, old, new, popular and obscure. Post punk, metal, hip-hop, funk, and rock in general. A music fan with a desire to lose boundaries on what should and should not be listened to writes about experience in music from a listener's perspective, hopefully unhindered by prior expectation.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tiny Music...Songs from Various Record Shops V

Tiny Music...a series of entries on recent and seemingly random purchases. Why I made them, and why, perhaps, you ought to do the same--or at least take up the methodology!

Part II
Part III
 Part IV

Released as part of the "Original Masters" series with this cover, this is the first purely ambient solo album Eno released, two months after Another Green World, the first Eno solo album I ever bought. If you want something up-tempo, danceable, short, fun, etc, this is not an album for you by any stretch of the imagination. Ambient music is generally quite long as a result of the languid nature of the music: indeed, the genre's name is derived from the intention to make the music a part of the ambiance of an environment.

In defiance of many expectations, when I first delved into Aphex Twin, the album I was most interested in finding was not The Richard D. James album with its frenetic Drum and Bass/Jungle/etc (please, please don't ask me to figure out what electronic genres are which--I have enough trouble with distinct, classically-recognized instruments-based bands) but Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II which was a follow up to the ambient-techno (it's a different thing, promise) Selected Ambient Works 85-92. SAWII was a sprawling, 3LP, 2 cassette, 2 CD monster that was 25 tracks on vinyl and cassette and 24 on UK CD (the US release inexplicably dropped another track, which has annoyed me for years) and primarily consists of slow, beat-less tracks in the 7-10 minute range.  
Discreet Music is similarly "ambient" (not "ambient techno") in that its first half is the 31 minute "Discreet Music," which flows gently along for 30 minutes with no audible beat and nothing grating, intrusive or otherwise attention-grabbing. But it's incredibly pretty and pleasant, which is something I often find appealing, myself. The second half is a re-interpretation of Pachelbel's Canon in numerous variations, similar in end result to "Discreet Music," though it is performed by actual live strings instead.

Caustic critic Christgau called it "good for hard bits of writing," as it functions in that place that Satie envisioned a lot of his music would, to some extent: musique d’ameublement or "furniture music," as it is most commonly translated. Of course, Satie was, in some respects, creating the idea that did become ambient music. Richard D. James himself (aka the Aphex Twin) has noted the influence of Satie before, and referenced him pretty openly regarding the much more mixed album Drukqs, which contains a number of solo piano style pieces reminiscent of the peculiar French composer.

While I was out shopping for all of these things, I did eventally stumble into a (slightly mutilated) copy of Erik Satie's own writings and musings collected as A Mammal's Notebook, too. I do like the French composer's work, actually, though not, as always, to prove some kind of point about my taste or style, but because the minimalist approach to music hits the right chords--well, notes--for me. I carry around a small list of the Satie works that are apparently some of the best recordings, and own a compilation of Aldo Ciccolini playing them.

But I'm really getting away from the primary point here: Eno is known as a producer more than anything these days, or as a collaborative artist, especially when he works with David Byrne, but for a time in the 1970s he did independent work like this and Another Green World and hit various poles of music in the process. It's good stuff--this one I have listened to a few times and quite liked!

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