In Brian Eno's first collaboration with Cluster, the best of this album's instrumental pieces are too emotionally rich to waste as mere background music, evoking feelings of hesitancy and regret that rescue the music from mere vapid prettiness. Three tracks in particular indicate things to come. "Wehrmut" is an ethereal synth piece with the pace slowed to a tantalizing crawl. "Steinsame" features a treated guitar playing a slow figure over a dark, almost funereal synth melody. "Schöne Hände" uses watery synth effects to highlight a shivery rhythm pattern.
An excellent compilation album, Old Land is comprised of tracks from Cluster and Eno's two major collaborations: Cluster and Eno (1977) and After the Heat (1978). All of Eno's vocal tracks are here: "The Belldog," "Tzima N'arki," and the dark, industrial "Broken Head." On "The Belldog," Eno's voice never sounded better, and the quirky "Tzima N'arki" brings to mind Lennon's experiments on "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Revolver). Eno's backward vocal track sounds like a surreal or foreign language. When coupled with layers of backward instrumental tracks, the music takes on a rather creepy quality.
The subject of many poor quality bootlegs, this concert - one of only a handful undertaken by Fripp & Eno - is routinely described as ‘legendary’. Hearing the tapes in fully restored audio quality, it's easy to understand why it attracts such reverence now and perhaps, why the shows attracted such hostility then. No Roxy Music hits, No King Crimson riffs, just a duo sitting in near darkness with a reel to reel tape recorder, improvising over the pre-recorded loops with a filmed background projection. Replace the reel to reel machine with a couple of laptops/iPads/sequencers and the core of much current live performance from electronica to hip-hop was there some thirty years in advance. At the time, audiences responded to such a glimpse of the future with booing, walkouts and general confusion.
Both Brian Eno and John Cale have always flirted with conventional pop music throughout their careers, while reserving the right to go off on less accessible experiments, which means they've always held out the promise that they would make something as attractive as this synthesizer-dominated collection, on which Eno comes as close to the mainstream as he has since Another Green World and Cale is as catchy as he's been since Honi Soit. The result is one of the best albums either one has ever made. [A 2005 reissue added two bonus tracks: "Grandfather's House" and "You Don't Miss Your Water."]
The possibility of Someday World arose when Brian Eno invited Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde to listen to a series of intros he'd been unable to finish. The pair share a love for African horns and rhythms as well as dance music of all stripes. Eno enlisted 22-year-old Fred Gibson as a co-producer, and numerous friends including Andy Mackay and Coldplay's Will Champion. As much as this album is a collaborative venture – Hyde's vocal and lyrics are indeed signatures – its music is impossible to separate from Eno's career. References to his first four solo records are ample, as is his work with Talking Heads, David Byrne, and even David Bowie.
Picking up where such seminal Eno recordings as Music for Airports and Another Green World left off, the inveterate innovator-producer's first recording in four years is a surreal tableau of loping beats and eerie sounds enveloped in dark yet serene atmospherics. With German percussionist Schwalm contributing softly swinging drumming, Eno is free to dabble in sounds ranging from Middle Eastern string quartets to crying machines and Vocoders to happy, babbling babies. One of Life's many highlights is Laurie Anderson's cameo on "Like Pictures Part #2," as she enunciates her words above the song's spooky, soothing ambiance. "Bloom" contrasts happy baby chatter against distorted heartbeats and sinister samples; "Night Traffic" paints an empty urban center at dusk with shifting shapes and '70s jazz percussion and piano. Throughout Drawn from Life, Eno and Schwalm cast a spell of spectral dislocation and foreboding. It's like what dying prostrate in the snow must be like–slow, sleepy, beautiful, and chilling.
Brian Eno will soon issue expanded versions of four of his albums originally released in the 1990s Nerve Net (1992), The Shutov Assembly (1992), Neroli (1993) and The Drop (1997) will each be reissued as a two-CD deluxe editions containing the original album and an additional disc of unreleased and rare Eno work specific to each record. Nerve Net includes the first ever commercial release of lost Eno album My Squelchy Life; The Shutov Assembly features an album’s worth of unreleased recordings from the same period; Neroli includes an entire unreleased hour-long Eno ambient work New Space Music; and The Drop includes nine rarely heard tracks from the Eno archives. Each album comes in deluxe casebound packaging and is accompanied by a 16-page booklet compiling photos, images and writing by Eno that is relevant to each release.
The Drop finds Brian Eno replicating the floating, trancy sound of Neroli, creating a shimmering collection of ambient music. Although The Drop illustrates that ambient doesn't all sound the same – it can be soothing and scary, sometimes both at once – the album doesn't particularly hold the listener's interest, as the shifting electronic soundscapes never reveal any substantial compositions. It's intriguing for a while, but by the time the 74 minutes of The Drop have finished, the album has made little lasting impression.
For the record, Nerve Net was not Brian Eno's first attempt at rock & roll. Not counting his time with Roxy Music, he also made several solo albums in the 1970s that were clearly intended as approaches to pop music – they were sideways approaches, of course, shaped by the intellectual distance he has always kept between himself and the music that arises from the forces that he puts into motion, and they were far from unqualified successes. But this is his most rocking solo album in years, and also his funkiest.
Taking a cue from the liner notes, most reviewers of Brian Eno's Neroli (1993) point out the piece's simple melodic line, its derivation from the Phrygian mode, its slowly mutating processes, and perhaps also its practical use as background music for therapy. All of these are salient points, and informative to anyone who wonders what this ambient album is like. Yet it might be helpful to mention Neroli's uncanny similarity to the second Environments album, Tintinnabulation (Synthesized Bell Tones), which was created by Syntonic Research, Inc., and released on Atlantic in 1972. Both Tintinnabulation and Eno's later work function as soft aural experiences, and resemble each other in their blurred textures and low chiming sonorities.