Artistic, visionary, complex, avant garde, groundbreaking and yes ambient. These are words that come to my mind when I think of Brian Eno. A true out of the box and forward thinking musician, artist and producer.
Brian Peter George Eno, was born in Woodbridge Suffolk, England, UK on May 15 1948. He attended the Winchester School of Art and graduated in 1969. While attending the institution, he attended a lecture by Pete Townsend of the Who, where the lecture was based on the use of tape machines as instruments. Inspired by the presentation, Eno began experimenting with the use of tape machines as instruments and was proud to do so because at the time he was not a musician.
Sometime around 1971 Brian joined a glam rock/art band that went by the name Roxy Music. While he was with the group, he initially was the sound engineer for the band but later went on to become a member of the group, dressed in makeup that went along with the theatrics of the act. After a couple of years with Roxy Music, Eno started his career officially with beginning work on his debut album, Here Come the Warm Jets. The album was described as Art-rock and or art pop (more on the latter genre later) and it had a style of his work with Roxy Music.
The experimental and accessible approach of the debut, was praised by many music critics at the time of its release.
Eno went on to release other albums in the mid 70s such as Taking Tiger Music, Another Green World and Discreet Music. Another Green World had it’s fair touches of ambience but it was the November 1975 release Discreet Music that was Brian Eno’s first true ambient album. While recovering from a car accident, Brian had an album of eighteenth-century harp/classical music that he would listen to. With the music being played at volume that was barely audible, the artist envisioned in his head a new way to hear and perceive music. It was this experience that inspired Brian to create Discreet Music and the genre we all know as Ambient was officially aimed towards the mainstream. Ambient was sort of hinted at by composer Erik Satie, who Brian studied, as “furniture music”. It was further described as music that blended with the atmosphere and acoustics of room to create the effect. With an undeniable sound of calm and often peaceful chords if you will, ambient music is smooth and it invokes a mood of deep reflection, mystery and wonder and sometimes fear. That’s how it makes me feel at least. I’m sure some would agree with me or of course, have their own opinions on the music. That’s the beauty of it I feel. After the release of the groundbreaking Discreet Music, Brian recorded what some considered to be, his last rock influenced album, Before and After Science. Given equal, if not more praise than it’s predecessor, the album is one of Eno’s best works critically.
After Before and After Science was released in 1977, Brian started work on and released a four album “ambient series” that began with the album Ambient 1: Music For Airports. Inspired by musician and composer, Brian’s four album series was based on expanding upon the ideas and textures initially explored on Discreet Music. The experimentation continued to grow on Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirrors, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance and Ambient 4: On Land. The latter was the darkest in the series, hence the then new genre, Dark Ambient. It is with this, the observation and listening experience of material from the series, that I can say, a vast change occurred in Eno’s music. The music of Roxy Music was gone and a realm of pure mood, atmosphere was created via the medium of ambient music. A medium that several artists and bands would later be influenced by.
While Brian released albums in the context of a solo artist, he was also a music producer. Brian did production work for many acts including, Talking Heads, Devo, David Bowie and U2. While working with Bowie for a concept of a Berlin themed trilogy, Brian’s art rock and experimental talents were revisited. The chemistry of the two musicians that is apparent on the albums is to this day celebrated and regarded as some of the two’s greatest music.
Another notable act that Eno had great chemistry with was the band U2. The band were wanting a different approach than their 1983 album War and employed Mr. Eno for the job. While the Unforgettable Fire had it’s signature U2 rock sound, the music and overall album was progressive and somber. The change was very apparent and the result is, in my humble opinion, one of the most underrated albums ever. Brain would later go on to work with the band on several albums adding his signature ambient landscapes and production approaches. The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and 2009’s No Line On The Horizon all proved that the band/producer relationship with Brian and U2 is one of the best in music history.
To say that Brian Eno has had an effect on me and other artists of today would be an understatement. Devin Townsend (Canadian heavy metal musician who has flirted with ambient music several times), 40 (Drake’s sole producer and engineer), Lustmord (dark ambient musician), 30 Seconds To Mars, The Weeknd, M83, JMSN, Nine Inch Nails, Rhys Fulber (producer of Industrial metal band Fear Factory and musician of ambient/industrial act Frontline Assembly), Clams Casino (A$AP Rocky ‘s producer), Tool, Enya and several artists and producers that would take forever to list have all been influenced by Brian Eno. The aforementioned Clams Casino was even given a shout out on a BBC radio station by Brian, where he played the instrumental Dem Wan on the station. This acknowledgement of course left Clams Casino stunned and honored. I was very excited when I heard the shout out because as a fan of both producer’s work, I know for a fact, a collaboration between the two would be astounding. Even Lady Gaga’s upcoming November 2013 album, ARTPOP bears the title of the genre that was greatly shown on Eno’s debut album Here Come The Warm Jets. I would like to think Gaga was inspired by some of Brian’s work. My observation isn’t the first time the two have been spoken of together though. In 2010 Brian was quick to let music critics and the new generation of fans that it was he, who was the first to wear a meat dress.
As for me, I have a lot of respect for Mr, Eno. Since I was very young, I’ve always had an attraction to things that were a little different and abstract. At the time of my age of 14, 15 and 16 I would hear ambient music and compositions and love what I was hearing, but I didn’t know what to call it. The sound was always enveloping and or freeing and full of texture that was just beautiful to me. As I grew up listening to artists like Deftones, Tool and U2, I started to read up on what those “sounds” were. I would see descriptions for albums of those bands and read things like “rock/pop rock/industrial and rock/ambient. That “ambient” part of the descriptions made me research and find music that was just purely ambient. That is how I discovered that Brian Eno was the Godfather of the style. As a producer, I have to give credit to the man because the beats and compositions that I create are mostly filled with airy, atmospheric and ambient chords, sounds and textures. I love everything about that music so I have to say he’s had a huge influence on the work I do and the work I will do in the future. That is why I have much, great and massive respect to Mr. Brian Eno.