Brian Eno is contemporary music's ultimate insider. He stole the show on Roxy Music's first two albums, lurked around Berlin with Bowie, took the Talking Heads to Africa, and taught U2 how to be hip. And he's led a double life in the higher arts, creating video installations, scoring Derek Jarman films, lecturing on the links between cybernetics and perfomance. But it isn't Eno's eclectism that leads him into the center of the pop experience. It's his approach: he treats sound as an ecosystem that contains and feeds us at all times. Eno has never drawn value distinctions about which sounds have stimulated his mind buds-- he's as fascinated with the drip and slide of "Be-Bop-A-Lula" as he is by John Cage's music of chance. He breaks down musical divisions by treating it all like stuff, physical stuff he can't wait to start manipulating like Play-doh. As a result, his songs and his ambient works arte highly sensual listening experiences, as well as keys to better understanding the listening process.
Eno made his great leap forward with Another Green World. The theme here is slow motion: "Spirits Drifting," " The Big Ship," " Beclaimed." Listening to Green World's haikus to inertia, punctuated by instrumentals that unfold and entwine like ivy, is like watching a year go by in 45 minutes. Guitarist Robert Fripp shares Eno's sense of melody and rhythm as spatial, rather than linear, but he's more physical, and his playing feeds each song like chlorophyll. John Cale and Phil Collins(!) also thicken things up. But mostly, Eno just immerses himself in the multilayered soundscapes he shapes from elements sometimes recognizable as music, sometimes more like the hum of daily life. Lyrics surface like uninterpreted dreams, aiming for subconscious association. The resulting sense of spaciousness makes these songs feel quite intimate, although nearly impossible to " read" in any usual sense. As always when at his best, here Eno creats a mindscape that merges with the listener's own.


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