A great intro to Eno's ambient music, and to modern minimali
Tym S. | San Francisco, CA USA | 01/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brian Eno turned the sonic textures that he'd injected into the art rock band Roxy Music into solo excursions of timbral soundscapes that he called "ambient music". His 1978 "Music For Airports" album is a milestone for many reasons. Chiefly, it created a smart and abstract approach of mood sound for social environments, and created a nexus for avant classical, electronic music, performance art, and outre rock.
The experimental enclave, Bang On a Can, tributed this album twenty years later by re-orchestrating its tape loops and synths with traditional instruments played by unconventional musicians. Their live concert in Amsterdam is the score used on this fascinating DVD, though they are not seen performing it. To match the impressionistic and slow-winding variance of the music, director Frank Scheffer filmed airports out-of-focus in long stretches. The "MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS" presentation seen here is what it was meant to be; curiously familiar but oddly fluid impressions of the airport environment in sound and light. The tonal modes and shifting color auras combine into the calming but interesting ambient mood that Eno originally intended as a tonic to the clatter and tension of the normal airport experience.
It is also a synesthete's delight. The sounds are nuanced and quietly rich, unfolding in a patient and ethereal plain. The images, blasted with sunlight around moving figures and machines looking like nimbuses of fluid colors, matches the open, tidal tones. At its best (tracks 3 and 4) it is like a perfect synthesis of abstract art and avant sound. Track 2 is lifted by the minimalist version of choral sirens, while 3 and 4 are enlivened by contemplative piano and reflective cello. Eno's original sound is now deepened and enriched by the use of cello, clarinet, electric guitar, keyboards, and bass with percussion, creating a unique atmosphere both human and otherworldy.
The added documentary "IN THE OCEAN" is worth the price of admission alone. Also directed by Scheffer, it goes beyond explaining the Bang On a Can ensemble's approach to become an excellent overview and introduction to modern composition and composers in general. It is a generational relay of interviews, from seminal figures like John Cage, Phillip Glass, Elliott Carter, and Steve Reich, on to Eno and into the subsequent generation of BOAC members like Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, and David Lang. Their insights and selections of their music guide the veiwer through the inspiration and evolution of the idiom from the 50's to the 90's. It takes what might be difficult music for the average listener and makes it both sensible and exciting.
I'd recommend it for music lovers into modern minimalism like Eno, Reich, and Glass; and rock iconoclasts like the Velvet Underground, the early Pink Floyd, early Yoko Ono, german progressive bands like Can, Cluster, Popul Vuh, and Kraftwerk, the late 70's Bowie, the NYC No Wave scene, Magazine, early Public Image Limited, Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth, Vangelis' "Blade Runner" score, or experimental Radiohead."