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Music / Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

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Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks is a 1983 Ambient album by Brian Eno, best known for the singles "Silver Morning", "An Ending (Ascent)" and "Deep Blue Day". The album was originally intended for a documentary about the Apollo moon landings called For All Mankind, but was released five years earlier than the film. The reason for this was that the initial test screenings weren't very enthusiastic and thus the makers decided to delay the project and rethink things over. It was eventually released in 1989 and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. Despite all that the soundtrack has probably reached more people than the film.

The album notably makes heavy use of the Yamaha DX7, an FM synthesizer introduced the same year that would become a popular instrument throughout the remainder of the decade, arguably becoming the definitive 80's synth by 1991. While the DX7 was mainly used for its less-than-accurate presets— whose omnipresence in the 1980's music scene still define public perception of the instrument as well as '80s pop/rock music as a whole to this day— Eno manually programmed the synth himself to obtain the specific kinds of sounds he wanted out of it, later publicly releasing instructions for how to recreate the album's patches in a 1987 issue of Keyboard magazine. Given that the DX7 is notoriously difficult to program (hence why most musicians stuck to the presets), this is a pretty impressive feat. Eno would continue to use the DX7 on records he produced for bands such as U2 and Coldplay.

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Tracklist

Side One

  1. "Under Stars" (4:25)
  2. "The Secret Place" (3:27)
  3. "Matta" (4:14)
  4. "Signals" (2:44)
  5. "An Ending (Ascent)" (4:18)
  6. "Under Stars II" (3:15)
  7. "Drift" (3:03)

Side Two

  1. "Silver Morning" (2:35)
  2. "Deep Blue Day" (3:53)
  3. "Weightless" (4:28)
  4. "Always Returning" (3:49)
  5. "Stars" (7:57)

Atmospheres and Tropes:

  • Ambient: A classic album from the Trope Maker himself.
  • Book-Ends: The first track is titled "Under Stars", the central track "Under Stars II" and the final one "Stars".
  • Concept Album: Because it was all composed for a specific documentary about moon exploration in space.
  • Cult Soundtrack: The music was originally meant for a documentary film about the Apollo moon missions: For All Mankind, but due to lukewarm audience reactions the project was delayed. The album came out in 1983, while the film only got an official release in 1989.
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  • Epic Rocking: "Stars", which takes 7:57 minutes.
  • Instrumental: All tracks are instrumental.
  • In the Style of...: "Silver Morning", "Deep Blue Day" and "Weightless" were inspired by country and western music.
  • Lighter and Softer: All the tracks on the album from "Drift" onwards are lighter than the Nightmare Fuel of the first half of the album.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The moon surface.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: "The Secret Place", "Matta", "Under Stars II"... all have a creepy, haunting feel to them.
  • Non-Appearing Title: All tracks are instrumental, thus have no lyrics.
  • One-Word Title: "Matta", "Drift", "Stars".
  • Record Producer: Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Deep Blue Day" was used in Trainspotting.
    • "An Ending (Ascent)" was sampled in "Hear Me Out" by Frou Frou. It has also been used in Traffic (2001) and 28 Days Later (2002).
  • Space Is Slow Motion: The album was originally composed for a documentary about the moon landings. Many of the tracks have a slow, dreamy sound quality to them. One track is even named "Weightless".
  • Standard Snippet: "An Ending (Ascent)" is used a lot for scenes with Tear Jerker moments, calm, contemplative scenes and scenes taking place in space.

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