A universally acknowledged masterpiece, Another Green World represents a departure from song structure and toward a more ethereal, minimalistic approach to sound. Despite the stripped-down arrangements, the album's sumptuous tone quality reflects Eno's growing virtuosity at handling the recording studio as an instrument in itself (à la Brian Wilson). There are a few pop songs scattered here and there ("St. Elmo's Fire," "I'll Come Running," "Golden Hours"), but most of the album consists of deliberately paced instrumentals that, while often closer to ambient music than pop, are both melodic and rhythmic; many, like "Sky Saw," "In Dark Trees," and "Little Fishes," are highly imagistic, like paintings done in sound that actually resemble their titles.
This is Eno's crowning achievement as a soloist. This album has both the pop songs and ambient pieces we expect from Eno…It was here that Eno first began to experiment with abstract soundscapes, to employ a greater spatial element and the ethereal synthesizer effects that presaged an entire movement of ambient music. While most of the tracks are instrumental, the numbers that feature Eno's peculiar, affectless voice and free-associative lyrics seem to blend into the fabric of the album. Superior guest musicians include John Cale, Percy Jones, Robert Fripp and Phil Collins. From the brain-bending riff of "Sky-Saw, through the elemental creeping of "Sombre Reptiles;" from Robert Fripp's looping solos in "St. Elmo's Fire" to the dark swirl of "Spirits Drifting," ANOTHER GREEN WORLD creates a superb series of sonic atmospheres that are rhythmic, expansive, strange and beautiful.
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.
Here's the deal: Brian Eno does soundtrack bits for one of British filmmaker Derek Jarman's final productions, "Glitterbug". Then Eno turns over said tracks to dub/world-meister Jah Wobble for further tinkering. Result: amazing! This is one of those instances where the mysterious and elusive 'third mind' that so many have spoken of in quality collaborative work has come out in force and created something that's perhaps a bit beyond the scope of either of the two participants, taken alone. The 'action' here keeps moving, in a very cinematic manner, throughout the tracks that make up this release, and you get the feeling of being drawn along in a complex musical journey through spaces that seem at once familiar and suddenly very alien.