INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Prog JULY 2019 - by Chris Roberts
BRIAN ENO - APOLLO: SOUNDTRACKS & ATMOSPHERES - EXTENDED EDITION
Eno's moonage daydream marks Armstrong's moment with new music.
Half a century on from the first man setting foot on the moon, Eno's much-acclaimed ninth solo album, originally released in 1983, re-enters our orbit. It has now docked with a second disc of new material, the first time Brainy Bri has worked with brother Roger and Daniel Lanois since then (according to the label, which seems to discount significant production work with U2 et al). Initially recorded for the Al Reinert documentary Apollo, which ultimately took off re-cut and re-styled as 1989's For All Mankind, it's a keystone piece in both Eno's career and his high-cultural credibility. Obviously it didn't rocket to the top of the hit parade, but it sold well as a slow-burner and did great things for the acceptability of New Age, ambient, dark ambient, call it what you will. It's way up there, both in its lofty, brooding restraint and in its status as a quiet classic of the genre.
If you'd ever wished TV commentators would shut up and do less commentating, allowing a televised event to yield its own natural, unforced drama, Eno's with you. It was his frustration at how yappy pundits diminished the strangeness and beauty of Apollo 11's mission that prompted him - and Reinert - to create their more sparse, seductive interpretation of the event's majesty. Simultaneously serene and troubled, his drifts and drones here remain a masterclass in saying more with less. Not to inappropriately overstate matters, but rarely have the sounds of hopeful emptiness and wary anticipation been more purely represented. Would it work as well without the associated historic images in our mind's eye? We'll never know: they're associated indelibly now. Lanois' treated guitar passages are just as beautifully eerie as Eno's now-primitive synthesised effects elegies.
So what's added by bringing eleven new pieces of more to this lexicon of less? Firstly there's the irresistible intrigue we feel when a landmark album (remastered at Abbey Road) gets the "extended" bolt-ons. Sonically, yes, it's what you'd expect: they delve into and develop the - no other word for it - atmosphere. The new tracks, usually three or four minutes long, support and feed the mood: nobody has any perverse intention of breaking the spell. Three are Lanois compositions - Capsule, Last Step From The Surface, Fine-Grained - and three are Roger's - Waking Up, Under The Moon, Strange Quiet. Eno's Like I Was A Spectator has the quality of suggesting it'll yield further secrets each time you investigate it. The whole treads softly. Small steps for three men, giant gentle leaps for the sotto voce murmurings of evocative minimalism.