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19 July 2013

Brian Eno - 'Discreet Music' (EG/Obscure)

A confession: I'm not wild about Discreet Music. The first side of this is lovely, sure, but the Pachabel redux on the flip takes so long to get interesting that I usually check out. Just as on his pop records, Eno's melodies are his strengths, but it's a fine line to walk. 'Discreet Music' is presented in the liner notes like some sort of revelation in music-making, but it's really built on the same principles that make the 60s minimalist canon so timeless - the slight shifting phases, the lingering pulse of the harmonies, etc. 'Discreet Music' is really a blueprint for artists like Stars of the Lid, which is not a bad thing - this delicate, group ambience has become old hat to me by now, though this was made by one person alone. Still, it's a lovely half-hour or so, which makes Pachebel's 'Canon in D' deconstruction so tiresome in comparison. By the third movement, which has the title 'Brutal Ardour' (which almost seems like a self-parodic Eno title), it has grown sentient and shaken off its host, but it takes so long to get there that I've lost interest when it finally comes around. Maybe I'm tired of 'Canon in D' from a lifetime of .MOD files, cheap keyboard demo modes, etc. At best, you could dive into this like some pure ear candy, similar to Van Dyke's cover of Donovan on Song Cycle, but the palette is too spare to stay intriguing. This never got classified as part of the 'ambient' series and that's fair enough, cause it's not truly 'ambient' yet, and it's not as consistently great as any of those records, or Music for Films. But side one is great enough that I hold onto this, and the relatively long running time for an LP (due to the low volume of the mastering job) means it's a dangerous thing to listen to, without nodding off and letting my stylus grind into oblivion for all eternity on the run-out groove. There's a big stupid sticker on my copy advertising the EG label (who reissued this from Eno's original 'obscure' imprint) as being a great source for 'new age' music. I guess all genre labels are equally stupid so why not?

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