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Another Green World
Brian Eno

Island 9351
Released: November 1975

Brian EnoEno's eccentric music doesn't stray beyond rock's accustomed borders so much as it innovates within those parameters. Another Green World's five vocal numbers generally represent his most conservative approaches, but its nine instrumentals are among his most radical reshapings of the genre. Together, they make perhaps the artist's most successful record.

The vocal selections could almost be outtakes from the earlier Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), although that record's dada lyrics are mostly absent here. Eno demonstrates on these cuts his striking and conventional sense of melody and rock chord structures, as well as a smooth, pleasant singing style. What separates him from the merely pedestrian is his imaginative, even queer arranging -- his presentation carries more import than his original compositions. (An interesting sidelight is the album's use of fretless, fretted, pedaled, synthesized and acoustic basses.) "St. Elmo's Fire" sets a hauntingly infectious refrain amidst an exotic array of synthesizers, bass pedals and guitars (or, as Eno mysteriously characterizes them, "desert" guitars). "Everything Merges with the Night" is a clever disguise of an orthodox I-IV-V chord sequence. "Sky Saw" bridges the vocals with much of the rest of the record; it begins as an instrumental but ends with singing. There are two basses and an eerie measure from John Cale's weeping viola, but it's Eno who carries the piece. Playing alongside their not unusual chord pattern, his guitar indeed sounds like a saw -- harsh, grating, raspy tones, totally unmusical if taken alone.

Such a musical adaptation of electronically generated noise, coupled with a steady rock pulse, is a foundation of Another Green World. Mechanical sound is not, of course, new to rock -- feedback and sythesizers have been staples for some time. Eno's tack, however, differs by its fuller realization. It's beyond gimmickry and, to a degree, more than just experimentation. "Over Fire Island" features Phil Collins's (of Genesis) unwavering drumming while Eno darts in and out with sliding synthesizer notes and a prepared tape. A tremeloed hiss quickly comes and goes, like radio static. But this is not a perfected approach: synthetic percussion always seems like a cocktail-lounge drum machine -- a frustrating, though by no means disastrous, distraction on several cuts.

The wordless pieces tend also to avoid melodies but they aren't unmelodic. Instead of tunes, they rely on broad chord washes. "Becalmed" and "Spirits Drifting" work this way, pursuing melancholic, pastel-shaded atmospheres unaccompanied by the decisive quality of a melody. Interestingly, almost all of the instrumentals ("Becalmed" is the sole exception) are shorter than the vocals -- three of them last less than two minutes. The title track -- it may be only a fragment -- simply repeats a few short phrases which gradually gain in volume. But this shortness is more likely a concision, one possible only when there are no lyrics to prescribe any specific duration to a piece or a portion of a piece. Moreover, Eno is acutely aware of form. Although long numbers are certainly no rarity in rock, the music was weaned on two-or three-minute performances. This artist is quite comfortable with this structure and content to stay with it.

Eno insists on risks, and that they so consistently pan out is a major triumph. I usually shudder at such a description, but Another Green World is indeed an important record -- and also a brilliant one.

- Charley Walters, Rolling Stone, 5/6/76.

Bonus Reviews!

Not exactly your hot commercial property but a typically interesting Eno merging of rock, classical and electronics. John Cale and Robert Fripp lend a hand. Best pieces are the semiclassical and electronic instrumentals. Best cuts: "St. Elmo's Fire," "I'll Come Running," "Be Calmed," "Spirits Drifting."

- Billboard, 1975.

Although I resisted at first, I've grown to love every minute of this arty little collection of static (i.e., non-swinging) synthesizer pieces (with vocals, percussion, and guitar). Think of it as the aural equivalent of a park on the moon -- oneness with nature under conditions of artificial gravity. Played in the background, all thirteen pieces merge into a pattern that tends to calm any lurking Luddite impulses; perceived individually, each takes on an organic shape of its own. Industrialism yes. A+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Eno's masterpiece contains a sumptuous aural melange of dense ambient instrumental snippets and rich, often beautiful pop melodies. This is one of those albums that should be enjoyed in one concentrated sitting. * * * * *

- John Floyd, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Before he took a sharp turn to ambience Eno did some incisive experimental rock work. His ear for melody and musical hooks show through on Another Green World, with its thick mixes and otherworldly atmosphere. The hook on "Sky Saw" seems capable of ripping the heavens apart, and "I'll Come Running" shows how he can turn out a banal pop lyric, then twist it into a comment on the whole genre. * * * * 1/2

- Lawrence Gabriel, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

After years as a rock eccentric, Eno was exploring new ideas about ambient music. But he said goodbye to song form with this album of pure synthetic beauty, mixing lush electronics ("Becalmed") with acoustic instruments ("Everything Merges With the Night") to cast a truly hypnotic spell.

Another Green World was chosen as the 433rd greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Brian Eno's third solo release was conceived when, immobilized while recovering from a car accident, he discovered the atmospheric properties of music. With a background of two albums on synthesizers with art-glam supremos Roxy Music, a tape-loop collaboration with Robert Fripp, and two solo records of avant pop, he was about to craft the genesis of ambient music.

Despite declaring himself a non-musician, Eno is a cultivated man with an art-school education. Also a respected producer (Talking Heads, Devo, U2) and visual artist, he was well aware of the avant-garde and kept a close eye on the more experimental advances in contemporary music -- Krautrock, for example -- that he could manipulate to give form to a new estetic.




Further reading on
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In Another..., Eno created a beautiful confluence of traditional pop/rock patterns and ambient soundscapes. Naive and minimalistic, the record was at the same time deeply moving and sophisticated, interspersing five highly evocative vocal tracks of alliterative and cryptic poetry among nine imaginative instrumental pieces. "I'll Come Running" and "St. Elmo's Fire" are the best of the vocals, both of them adorned by Robert Fripp's extraordinary lead guitar. John Cale and Phil Collins were also involved, lending a feel of Collins' band Brand X to jazz-rock tracks such as "Zawinul/Lava" and "Sky Saw." But it was Eno's captivating voice and custom-made battery of devices (treated guitars, tape trickery, electronic rhythm generators, and synthesizers) that propeled the album into new musical territory. David Bowie's Low, "Heroes"; and Lodger took inspiration from this masterpiece.

- Jamie Dickson, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Prepare to enter the Enosphere. In this place, the everyday trappings of pop music -- clock-punching rhythm guitars, hammering drums -- operate according to a different logic. The composer, producer, conceptualist, and contrarian Brian Eno has his own philosophies of sound and the spatial relationships between sounds; his music is lush, layered, yet throughout clarity is prized over clutter. Eno has explored these notions of sound on a series of slow-moving instrumental records he describes as "ambient" (he's often credited with coining that term; one example is Music for Airports). He's refined them through his productions for David Bowie, U2, and others. On Another Green World, one of his most influential "pop" collections, he shows how these concepts can spark shadowy, rivetingly unusual music. It's Eno in digest form.

Eno music feels like it was created in all-consuming dream states -- it doesn't assault as much as envelop its listeners, swirling around like mist. In the soundscapes of this classic, Eno positions ritualistic hand-drum patterns next to eeerie wind-blown synths, then lets them drift along, until their coexistence seems somehow natural. Some pieces seem inspired by surreal visual images, à la Magritte; on the vivid "Sky Saw" and "In Dark Trees," each instrumental event, right down to the last stray chime, is placed exactingly to enhance Eno's overall effect.

It's not easy to lure people into such an abstract place, and even more difficult to keep them there. A secret of Another Green World is its captivating sequence: The majestic instrumentals evoke areas of vast oceanic beauty, and just when Eno's fully exhausted them, they fade away, eclipsed by tightly focused, if not always overtly catchy, songs with words. This flowing structure gives the album a pleasant journeying quality, as Eno provides listeners not just with outright thrills, but moments of deep soothing calm to recover from them.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

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