[Review] Brian Eno: Music For Films (1978)

Ambient bits and pieces create a kind of Whitman’s Sampler of wispy works.

Kronomyth 9.0: Ambientout.

If you enjoyed the short ambient pieces on Another Green World and Before And After Science, you weren’t alone and you were about to get more company. Music For Films collects 18 short ambient works recorded between 1975 and 1978. The title is deceptive, since only a handful of these songs (“Slow Water,” “Alternative 3,” “M386”) were originally used in films, such as Derek Jarman’s Jubilee and the fake documentary film, Alternative 3. For years, my reaction to this album was cool; I saw it as a cabinetful of curios rather than a self-standing album. But the only deficiency in the work is its brevity.

The songs are tantalizingly short to a fault, dissipating like vivid dreams at the waking edge of sleep. A handful are long enough to create self-sustaining environments, notably “Events In Dense Fog” and “Final Sunset.” Most appear and disappear, a procession of fantasic ghosts, autumnal and astral. “Slow Water,” “Quartz” or “Strange Light” are examples of pieces that could have been captivating over the course of twenty minutes. Brian Eno himself seems to have conceived the album as a collective listening experience, going so far as to alter the track order slightly on the Editions EG reissue for better continuity.

While a wider picture doesn’t emerge from Films, the album remains entertaining and (perhaps more importantly) edifying as a sketchbook of ideas from (arguably) the artist’s most fertile creative period. The effect is far different than the meditative Discreet Music, yet the pair make a brilliant set of bookends in Eno’s ambient literature. I’d highly recommend the CD route, as it gives you the option of putting this on a random loop and extending its original, limited borders to a broader vista.

Original LP version

A1. M386
A2. Aragon
A3. From The Same Hill
A4. Inland Sea
A5. Two Rapid Formations
A6. Slow Water
A7. Sparrowfall (1)
A8. Sparrowfall (2)
A9. Sparrowfall (3)
B1. Quartz
B2. Events In Dense Fog
B3. ‘There Is Nobody’
B4. A Measured Room
B5. Patrolling Wire Borders
B6. Task Force
B7. Alternative 3
B8. Strange Light
B9. Final Sunset

LP reissue version (Editions EG)
A1. Aragon (1:39)
A2. From The Same Hill (2:58)
A3. Inland Sea (1:25)
A4. Two Rapid Formations (3:24)
A5. Slow Water (3:15)
A6. Sparrowfall (1) (1:13)
A7. Sparrowfall (2) (1:52)
A8. Sparrowfall (3) (1:24)
A9. Alternative 3 (3:12)
B1. Quartz (2:01)
B2. Events In Dense Fog (3:46)
B3. ‘There Is Nobody’ (1:43)
B4. Patrolling Wire Borders (1:42)
B5. A Measured Room (Brian Eno, arr. by Percy Jones/Brian Eno) (1:02)
B6. Task Force (1:21)
B7. M386 (2:50)
B8. Strange Light (Brian Eno, arr. by Fred Frith/Brian Eno) (2:10)
B9. Final Sunset (4:10)

The Players

Brian Eno with John Cale (viola on B5), Phil Collins (percussion on A1/A2/B5), Rhett Davies (trumpet on B8), Robert Fripp (electric guitar on A6), Fred Frith (electric guitar on A5/B8), Percy Jones (bass guitar on A1/A2/B4), Bill MacCormick (bass guitar on A5), Dave Mattacks (percussion on A5), Rod Melvin (electric piano on B5), Paul Rudolph (guitar on A1/A2/B5). Produced by Brian Eno; assisted & engineered by Rhett Davies.

The Pictures

Cover photograph by Ritva Saarikko.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in September 1978 in the UK, Australia, France and Italy (Polydor, 2310 623), the US (Antilles, AN-7070), Germany (Polydor, 2344 123) and Japan (Polydor/EG, MPF-1203); reached #55 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released on elpee and cassette in 1982 in the US (Editions EG, EGS/EGSC-105) with different track order.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette on November 21, 1989 in the US (Editions EG, EEGCD/EGEDC-5).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2005 in the US (Virgin) and on June 22, 2005 in Japan (Virgin, VJCP-68744).
  4. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on August 3, 2009 in the UK (EMI, ENOCDX9).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on October 26, 2011 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-54283).
  6. Re-released on super high material compact disc on September 25, 2013 in Japan (Virgin, VJCP-98054).
  7. To be released on half-speed remaster 2LP on November 18, 2018 in the UK (UMC/Virgin, ENO2LP9) with gatefold cover.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *