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The Line Of Best Fit AUGUST 20, 2020 - by Ross Horton
THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF ENO/WOBBLE'S COLLABORATION MAY FALTER BUT IT STILL HOLDS ITS OWN
As part of an ongoing reissue series, August sees the release of expanded editions of Brian Eno's Wrong Way Up, a collaboration with John Cale, and Spinner (with Jah Wobble), marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Eno/Wobble album.
Spinner, a collaborative project with ex-Public Image Ltd. bass magician Jah Wobble, is the lesser of the two projects being reissued here, but there's lots about it to enjoy. It started life as the soundtrack to Derek Jarman's Glitterbug, but evolved into something larger. It turns out the project, first released in 1995, finds two wildly opposite talents being put to use in somewhat complementary ways. Eno, he of the air and water music, sent basic tracks off to Wobble to use and abuse however he saw fit, and the resulting album is made up of what was left after he'd finished with them (he also drafted in Can drum legend Jaki Liebezeit to play percussion on the album). Some of the tracks saw minimal (if any) adjustments made, but it's in the tracks that feature Wobble's heaviest participation that the true pleasure of the album is found.
Over the ten tracks, you'll find powerful grooves, shimmering ambient passages and raw, noisy slabs of musique concrète. Opener Where We Lived threatens to derail the project immediately, as Wobble's presence is swallowed up by the strength of Eno's basic tracks. By the second track, Like Organza, a balance is struck between Eno's spacey, extraterrestrial tones and Wobble's dubbed-out soundscapes.
Steam is significantly more aggressive than the opening pair, and it plays like a cue from a particularly harrowing dystopian movie. Garden Recalled, which features Eno alone, is one of the better tracks on the record, as it picks up where Apollo left off, all empty, drifting winds on a forgotten planet. Marine Radio, with its throwback My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts sound, is the best example of how their two styles can coexist in harmony.
Unusual Balance features a curiously uber-90s vibe, and would have fit better on David Fincher's Seven than anything on Derek Jarman ever did. Space Diary 1 is another success - and it sounds exactly like you'd expect from the title. The title track, Spinner, sounds curiously like Liebezeit's day job in Can, or at least like Tangerine Dream's '80s work. Transmitter And Trumpet, which runs far too long, and Left Where It Fell, which is far too abrasive and drawn out - made of two separate, uncomplimentary halves - both threaten to undo a lot of the good work done on the album, but never quite pull off the self-sabotage in full.
For a fan, this particular reissue must be of incredible interest. But to everyone else, this is much more difficult to recommend. As it is, the remastered edition is available to stream on Eno's Bandcamp, so it's probably best to give it a sample before you take the plunge. Or better yet, spend your hard-earned on the other album released this week - that's a much better, much truer collaboration between two legendary artists.