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Music / Brian Eno

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"So tired, soul searching, I followed the sounds to a cathedral
Imagine my surprise to find that they were produced by Brian Eno"

Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno (born Brian Peter George Eno, May 15, 1948) is an enormously influential and prolific musician, composer, Record Producer, singer and music theorist, even though he describes himself as a "non-musician." A former art school student, Eno has an enormous amount of credits under his belt that includes his popularisation of ambient music, sampling, and world music, his co-authoring of the "Oblique Strategies" collection of cards alongside Peter Schmidt, his groundbreaking use of the studio as an instrument, his critically acclaimed solo career, his well-regarded work as a Record Producer, his stint in the glam rock band Roxy Music and his creation of the "Microsoft Sound."

Eno's interest in recording technology and experimental approaches can be traced to his studies at Ipswich Art School and the Winchester School of Art, but he had little actual musical training when he joined the glam rock band Roxy Music in 1971. Credited solely as "Eno," he provided synthesiser work, occasional backing vocals and "treatments", operating the mixing desk, tape recorders and serving as Record Producer. He left the band in 1973 over a creative conflict with frontman Bryan Ferry, taking his weirdness with him.

Eno started a solo career almost immediately, bringing a ton of guest musicians in the studio that included all his old Roxy bandmates sans Ferry (Phil Manzanera, Andy MacKay, Paul Thompson,) John Wetton and Robert Fripp from King Crimson, Simon King from Hawkwind and Paul Rudolph of The Pink Fairies — an ensemble specifically chosen for its musical incompatibility. The resulting hodgepodge of humorous Word Salad Lyrics, catchy rock melodies and experimental touches made Here Come the Warm Jets a notable success. He continued this experimental rock sound for a string of similarly-acclaimed albums, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World and Before and After Science, featuring just as many guest musicians pooled from famous bands as before.

Simultaneously, Eno entered into a long True Arty collaboration with Robert Fripp based around a tape-delay system nicknamed "Frippertronics" and minimalist influences. Eno and Fripp released three albums together: (No Pussyfooting), the first, had exactly one 18-minute track per side. The minimalist direction of these albums along with an apocryphal story about staying in the hospital, eventually drove Eno to abandon rock and dedicate himself to ambient music, releasing another series of acclaimed albums starting with Ambient 1: Music for Airports which are considered landmarks of the genre. Since then, his solo music has largely been electronic and ambient in nature.

Ever since his career began, Eno has split his time between working by himself and acting as a Record Producer. In the latter capacity, he is known for applying his experimental approach in the studio and encouraging a band's creativity. His production work includes, among others:

  • Talking Heads' critically acclaimed More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light.
  • Every U2 album from The Unforgettable Fire to No Line on the Horizon (except Pop), alongside co-producer Daniel Lanois. Eno and Lanois are famous for playing a key role in creating both the band's ambient sound in The '80s and their futuristic techno-rock sound in The '90s with their production wizardry. Eno also served as a key player in the Passengers side-project, and even has a number of writing credits on No Line on the Horizon.
  • Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, the soundtrack for the National Geographic film For All Mankind. Wonderfully atmospheric music to accompany the story of the Apollo Project.
  • James' most successful album Laid, its experimental companion piece Wah Wah and Millionaires.
  • A cameo on Slowdive's Souvlaki, providing keyboards and treatments to the songs "Sing" and "Here She Comes." Notably, he declined the band's offer to produce the entire album, saying they were good enough to not need his help, but he did offer to collaborate with them.
  • Devo's debut: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!. Eno was frustrated by Devo's obsession with sticking to the arrangements they had already demoed, and Devo later admitted that they should have listen a bit more to Eno's advice, and pointed that he always came up with "cool" synth parts that "we only used for three or four songs."
  • Ultravox's debut Ultravox! (alongside the band and Steve Lillywhite).
  • Coldplay's albums Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008) and Mylo Xyloto (2011). Notably, for Viva la Vida, Eno point-blank told the band exactly what parts of their style completely sucked once he accepted the job and set out to correct those perceived flaws.
  • Laurie Anderson's Bright Red.

He contributed heavily to David Bowie's "Berlin trilogy" (Low, "Heroes", and Lodger), to the point that he and producer Tony Visconti are considered the architects of those albums' sound (and Eno is often mis-credited as co-producing those albums; he did, however, produce Bowie's later album Outside). He also released two critically acclaimed collaborations with David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and co-produced Byrne's 2018 solo album American Utopia. His involvement with the music industry is so deeply entrenched that his Wikipedia article once included a detailed web diagram showing off just how many connections he has with other Progressive Rock artists alone; he's that prolific.

Oh, and he made a cameo in the last episode of Father Ted as Father Brian Eno. He really does get everywhere.


Solo albums:

  • Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)
  • Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)
  • Another Green World (1975)
  • Discreet Music (1975)
  • Before and After Science (1977)
  • Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)
  • Music for Films (1978)
  • Ambient 4: On Land (1982)
  • Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)
  • Music for Films Volume 2 (1984)
  • Thursday Afternoon (1985)
  • Nerve Net (1992)
  • The Shutov Assembly (1992)
  • Neroli (1993)
  • Extracts from Music for White Cube (1997)
  • The Drop (1997)
  • Lightness: Music for the Marble Palace (1998)
  • I Dormienti (1998)
  • Kite Stories (1998)
  • Music for Civic Recovery Centre (2000)
  • Compact Forest Proposal (2001)
  • January 7003: Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now (2003)
  • Another Day on Earth (2005)
  • Small Craft on a Milk Sea (2010)
  • FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE (upcoming; set for 2022)

Collaborative albums:

With Roxy Music:

With 801:

  • June 1, 1974 (1974)
  • 801 Live (1976)

With David Bowie:

With Harold Budd:

  • Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (1980)
  • The Pearl (1984)

With Talking Heads:

With David Byrne:

With John Cale:

  • Wrong Way Up (1990)

With Cluster:

  • Cluster & Eno (1977)
  • After the Heat (1977)
  • Begegnungen (1984) - compilation of collaborative work
  • Begegnungen II (1985) - compilation of collaborative work
  • Old Land (1985) - compilation of collaborative work

With Robert Fripp:

  • (No Pussyfooting) (1973)
  • Evening Star (1975)
  • The Equatorial Stars (2004)
  • Beyond Even (1992-2006) (2007)

With Jon Hassell:

  • Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics (1980)
  • Fourth World, Vol. 2: Dream Theory in Malaya (1981)

With Rick Holland:

  • Drums Between the Bells (2010)

With Laraaji:

  • Ambient 3: Day of Radiance (1980)

With U2 (as Passengers):

  • Original Soundtracks 1 (1995)

With Jah Wobble:

  • Spinner (1995)

Oblique Tropes:

  • Ambient: Trope Codifier, if not Trope Maker. Also Trope Namer.
  • As the Good Book Says...: "Needles in the Camel's Eye" is an allusion to one of Jesus' aphorisms ("It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven").
  • Black Comedy: Some of his songs take a light-hearted approach to gruesome subject matter, like "Baby's on Fire," which is made of puns about a person who's on fire ("They said that you were hot stuff / And that's what baby's been reduced to"), or "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More."
  • Bo Diddley Beat: "Blank Frank."
  • Camp Straight: He was one in the early part of his career, with his feathers and makeup.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Well, it's his style. The results he achieves suggest that he has his feet on some sort of ground.
  • Cool Old Guy: He's over 70 and still responsible for a lot of awesome tunes.
  • Concept Album: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) is a loose one.
  • Darker and Edgier: "Ambient 4: On Land" is much darker than his previous ambient outings,with many considering it a Trope Maker for Dark Ambient.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Comes across this way in interviews.
  • Drone of Dread: "Ambient 4" features this on every track. The high-pitched synth note in "Baby's on Fire" also qualifies.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: His first two albums were far more evocative of the Glam Rock sound he had developed during his time in Roxy Music; only after this would he begin to delve more and more into experimental, ambient territory, with Another Green World and Before and After Science both containing strong avant-garde elements evocative of his forthcoming sound and Discreet Music between them being his first full-on ambient record. He wouldn't fully embrace the genre though until Ambient 1: Music for Airports, after which he never touched more traditional rock in his solo work again.
  • Epic Rocking: For a certain definition of the term, his ambient music often qualifies; "Discreet Music" is over thirty minutes long and it's nowhere close to being his longest song. Neroli is a single-track album that runs for almost an hour.
  • Everything Is an Instrument:
    • The typewriter solo on "China My China."
    • On John Cale's "Gun," Eno plays Phil Manzanera. That is, Phil Manzanera takes a guitar solo, which is fed into Eno's keyboard, so Eno is sampling him in real time.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Quite a few songs, particularly on albums like Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Wore these with Roxy Music and the Here Come the Warm Jets era.
  • Genre Mashup: His music incorporates influence from many different genres, including World Music, Electronic Music, Avant-Garde Music, Glam Rock, Jazz, Classical Music, and Progressive Rock.
  • Guyliner: In his time with Roxy Music and his early solo career.
  • Improv: A key component of his songwriting process.
  • Instrumentals: Much of his work is instrumental, especially his ambient stuff.
  • Last-Name Basis: In Roxy Music and on his first solo albums, he was credited simply as "Eno."
  • Literary Allusion Title: Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy) is one to a Chinese opera of the same name.
  • Overly Long Name: Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno.
  • Parachute in a Tree: "Mother Whale Eyeless" includes the line "Parachutes caught on steeples."
  • Person as Verb: On John Cale's album Fear, he isn't credited with playing any specific instrument — his contribution is simply listed as "Eno." He's also credited for "Enossification" on Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (which amounts to distortion effects on Peter Gabriel's vocals).
  • Porn Stash: According to an interview he did with Chrissie Hynde (yes, that Chrissie Hynde), he had an impressive one in The '70s, though Hynde later admitted to embellishing her account.
  • Pun-Based Title: He has quite a few of them: "Seven Deadly Finns", "Golden Hours", "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More" (a play on the slogan of Turkish Airlines, which had recently suffered one of the worst air crashes in history), and so on.
  • Record Producer: One of the most famous.
  • Renaissance Man: A composer, performer, producer, diarist, video artist...
  • Rhythm Typewriter: Used in "China My China":
    These poor girls are such fun
    They know what God gave them their fingers for
    (To make percussion over solos)
  • Sampling: Helped popularize the method with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: His music since the '70s has tended towards the serene and floaty end of things, but as his published diaries reveal, he has something of a temper. When he made Wrong Way Up with John Cale, they... clashed.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: His vocal albums employ a lot of multiple vocal overdubs.
  • Shout-Out: "Zawinul/Lava" is likely one to Joe Zawinul of Weather Report and Miles Davis fame. "Kurt's Rejoinder" is a reference to poet/artist Kurt Schwitters, whose cut-up technique was an influence on Eno's lyrical writing style (and whose poem "Ursonate" is actually sampled in the song). The Judy of "Back in Judy's Jungle" is punk musician Judy Nylon.
  • Significant Anagram: "King's Lead Hat" is one for Talking Heads, a band Eno admired and whom he would soon begin producing.
  • Take That!: "Dead Finks Don't Talk" from his solo debut sounds a lot like a swipe at Bryan Ferry, who had recently thrown him out of Roxy Music. Eno pretty much admits it, although he says the correspondence was unconscious.
  • Trope Codifier: For ambient music, and arguably also for generative music.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: "China My China":
    I remember a man who jumped out of a window over the bay
    There was hardly a raised eyebrow
  • Word Salad Lyrics: He has a habit of choosing words for their sound rather than their meaning, resulting in liberal amounts of this.
  • World Music: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts helped popularize the fusion of rock with world music known as worldbeat.