The following review was originally published on Reality Sandwich on February 22, 2013 as part of a “Top Ten” article.
thursday

To rock fans, Brian Eno is known as a producer for U2, Taking Heads, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, and a host of other bands, whereas electronic music aficionados know him as the self-described “non-musician” who coined the phrase “ambient music” and who was instrumental (pun intended) in defining the genre. After a short stint with the glam band Roxy Music in the early 70s, Eno embarked on a solo career that quickly veered from quirky pop songs into experimental soundscapes “designed to induce calm and space to think.”

Indeed the best thing about good ambient music is that it is mentally and emotionally unobtrusive. Unlike most music, it’s less about generating a particular mood than providing a space into which one’s current thoughts and feelings can flow. As music that Eno insisted “must be ignorable as it is interesting,” it can be listened to (psycho)actively or heard passively as background music. This was certainly the intention behind Eno’s most famous ambient release, subtitled “Music for Airports” (1975), which was in fact played at LaGuardia for a time during the 80s. In my mind, the four-song album could have been called “Music for Yoga,” as I have found it especially conducive to ritual relaxation and even for meditation. If silence is golden, then ambient gets the silver.

If I had to choose a single transcendent track, it would have to be “Thursday Afternoon” (1985), one of the first recordings ever to take full advantage of the then-fairly-new CD format. Clocking in at almost exactly 60 minutes (again, ideal for a yoga session), the composition incorporates a handful of sparse piano and droning synth loops of varying and unsynchronized lengths that overlap in ever-shifting ways. The loops also vary in volume throughout the piece such that the piano notes recede gradually from foreground to background. In contrast to Eno’s darker ambient albums like On Land and Neroli, Thursday Afternoon is relatively light and airy. In my mind, it will forever be associated with the smell of Nag Champa and the delicious feeling of free-flowing prana and mental quiescence.

Advertisements