Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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Sounds MARCH 10, 1979 - by David Hepworth

ANSWERS TO A LUSH'S PRAYER

BRIAN ENO: MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS

Easy listening is a much abused term. If the stuff that arouses is valid then the stuff that calms must be no less so. Ambient is the label set up by Eno to publish his experiments with discreet music, experiments that were initially inspired by the gentle and regular piano pieces that Eric Satie designed to mingle with the noise of quiet activity. The aim, he says, is to create sound as 'ignorable as it is interesting'.

Apprehension and anticipation collide in the atmosphere of an airport departure lounge, so the intention of Music For Airports is to induce calm. The aim is solace, a tranquillising effect which could almost touch on the psychological. The first piece is typical of the four; a single fingered keyboard sequence written by Robert Wyatt and repeated with slight alterations over a cushion of soft noise.

On the second track, three female voices shimmer. Then these two elements are put together for the third shot leaving the final track to close up with a horn-like electronic keyboard sound. There are no events to be remarked upon because the progress is carefully shaved of incident. The sound is there for a while and then it goes away.

The contradictions of ambient music are obvious. There's nothing to 'listen' to or assess in the normal way. In a very real way, it's functional music and subject to that kind of measurement. You can pair it with some kind of activity; drinking coffee, watching TV with the sound off, even typing this review. used in this way, your perception of it flicks on and off like an awareness of heat or cold.

I couldn't test drive the thing out at Heathrow and see if it was capable of slackening the metabolism in the barely suppressed panic of that aluminium jungle, so a few domestic tests had to suffice. Over one weekend it dispersed the effects of a gruelling rush hour journey, put the cat out for the count on any number of occasions and did the job of an aspirin on a poisonous Sunday morning hangover.

This last I was most impressed with. So if you compute the cost of this album against the amount of aspirins you expect to get through in a specific period, you may find it a worthwhile purchase. How many hangovers do you average?


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