INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Prog DECEMBER 2020 - by Joe Banks
BRIAN ENO: FILM MUSIC 1976-2020
Selected retrospective of the ambient overlord's soundtrack work.
Tangerine Dream and Vangelis might be more renowned for their soundtrack work, but Brian Eno was also in the vanguard of electronic composers challenging the dominance of traditional orchestration in film and TV. Yet what sets his work apart from those other artists is the humanity he injects into his music; rather than presenting electronic textures and atmospheres as signifiers of modernity or the future, he uses them instead as channels for emotion and abstraction. After all, Eno's concept of 'ambient music' is perfect for the movies - sonic mood pieces that enhance what's happening onscreen rather than overpowering it.
With hundreds of pieces of his music used in films and TV programmes, the seventeen songs included on Film Music 1976-2020 really are just the tip of the iceberg. But what's clear is that, throughout those years, Eno's ear for evocative tones and timbres has been second to none, which means that his work rarely sounds dated. There's a timeless quality to the earliest piece here - Final Sunset from Sebastiane - just as the lush ebb and flow of synth and piano on 2017's Decline And Fall from O Nome Da Morte could have been recorded yesterday or decades ago. Yet Eno's always been open to the possibilities of technology as it evolves - listen to the glitching, digital percussion of Design As Reduction and the classy electronica plus hard beats of Reasonable Question, the album's most recent piece. And even when something does tie a track to a particular period, for instance, the parping pseudo-bass of 1992's Under, there's always a saving grace - in this case, Eno's unvarnished vocal, highlighting what's one of the great English art school voices.
Of course, no album of Eno's film work would be complete without the cosmic exotica and heavenly drone of Deep Blue Day and An Ending (Ascent), both originally composed for Apollo documentary For All Mankind, but repurposed widely ever since. Possessed of a simple magic, they epitomise Eno's visionary talent