Music For Landscapes Pt3

Ambient 4: On Land – Brian Eno

The fourth in Brian Eno’s series of ambient albums, is possibly the darkest, most haunting of them all. A combination of electronica, acoustic and natural sounds, recorded in the landscape, On Land has an eerie beauty born of melancholy loneliness.

The passage of time becomes irrelevant as this album traps you in the moment. A fragile majesty carries you through each track, a procession of geographic places each with their own atmosphere, where human presence feels to be an intrusion. This is not a ‘chill out’ album, it broods under darkened skies and transports the listener to elemental soundscapes.

I don’t want to say too much about this album, it is better experienced than described. At the time of its release, On Land was a ground breaking album and it still sounds as fresh and different today, as it did over thirty years ago.

brian_eno-on_land

Ambient 4 – On Land. Brian Eno
1. Lizard Point
2. The Lost Day
3. Tal Coat
4. Shadow
5. Lantern Marsh
6. Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills)
7. A Clearing
8. Dunwich Beach, Autumn, 1960

Listen to the full album here.

 

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Music For Landscapes Pt2

Julian Cope – Rite

One criticism that cannot be levelled at Julian Cope is that his is afraid to take risks. His prodigious output has taken him far beyond his post-punk pop roots and his numerous side projects into territory that many other artists would fear to tread.

Skulking in a corner of Cope’s back catalogue, is the ‘Rite’ series. Four albums (Rite, Rite2, Rite Now and Rite Bastard) of mostly long, instrumental pieces, amalgamating funk, krautrock and psychedelia.

All four albums have their merits but here I want to highlight the first of the series.

rite

Rite: Julian Cope & Donald Ross Skinner (1992)
1. The Indians Worship Him, But He Hurries On
2. Amethysteria
3. Cherhill Down
4. In Search of Ancient Astronomies

The first three tracks are wonderful excercises in what might be termed as ‘ambient funk’, but it is the final track that I would like to hightlight. In Search of Ancient Astronomies is a twenty five minute throb-athon, drenched in waves of energy that speaks of a night out in the landscape. A summer night laying in a stone circle watching shooting stars, or sat around a campfire watching the sparks fly into the sky.

It reminds me of a nightime walk I made to Stonehenge many years ago. A friend and I walked along the old road road from Amesbury to the stones for the Spring Equinox sunrise, meeting others as we went, eventually forming a group, marching across Salisbury Plain. It was a cold, clear night and I remember vividly how breathtaking the blanket of stars above us was. I don’t think that I’d seen the milky way so clearly before. The rhythm of marching beneath those stars comes back to me each time I play this track. In the end, we reached Stonehenge to find it ringed by security guards – but that is another story!

Listen to the track here.

Music For Landscapes Pt1

The question about what music would be suitable for landscapes arose when I was considering putting a video of my photography together. I noticed that some photographers like to use some manner of generic mush to accompany their videos (the kind of thing that you can download from iTunes), but to me, this seems to be void of personality and against the point of undertaking such an exercise in the first place.

Although it is rare for me to listen to music while I’m out in the landscape (preferring just the sound of the wind rustling the heather and grasses), I usually like to play something in the car on my way to a location that sets the atmosphere. So what follows is highly personalised and certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

The Enid – In the Region of the Summer Stars

The Enid are an odd band and that is probably exactly why I like them. Pigeon-holed as ‘Classical Rock’ or ‘Prog’, tags that really don’t do them justice, their music can be ethereal, stirring and bizarre all at the same time.

They have been around in one form or another since 1973, often going through major line up changes and re-constitutions, but always centred by the great Robert John Godfrey. The history of the band has been well documented and is as fascinating as their music.

In the Region of the Summer Stars was their debut album, released in 1976, based mostly on cards from the Tarot deck. It was partially re-recorded and re-released independently by the band in 1984, when EMI deleted it from their catalogue and lost the master tapes for side two.

The track listing for both versions is as follows:

1976 Original

1976 Original

1. The Fool..The Falling Tower
2. Death, The Reaper
3. The Lovers
4. The Devil

5. The Sun
6. The Last Judgement
7. In The Region Of The Summer Stars

1984 Re-issue

1984 Reissue

  1. Fool
  2. The Tower of Babel
  3. The Reaper
  4. The Loved Ones
  5. The Demon King
  6. Pre-Dawn/Sunrise
  7. The Last Day/ The Flood
  8. Under the Summer Stars/ Adieu.

My personal preference is for the 1984 reissue. Technology had moved on somewhat in the intervening years and some of the keyboard sounds that may have sounded current in the mid-70s, haven’t dated well since.

This is an album that I have loved for many years. It has a sense of delicacy and finesse that informs even the heaviest, most stirring passages. Embodying a sense of grandeur on an epic scale, it could almost have been written for a night on a Pennine moor.

‘The Fool’ glistens and shimmers, while a bell tolls in the distance, serving as a prelude to the manic energy of ‘The Falling Tower’. ‘Death, The Reaper’ is a mournful piece that builds towards its crescendo.  The gentle piano of ‘The Lovers’ serves as a direct contrast to the mocking intensity of ‘The Devil’.

Side two can almost be taken as a single piece in a number of movements. ‘The Sun’ is a wonderfully celestial passage with an orchestral bombast that builds in grandeur. ‘The Last Judgement’ and ‘In the Region of the Summer Stars’ is a true masterpiece, with a scope and depth that defies description. I would urge you to listen for yourself. I hope that one day, In the Region of the Summer Stars comes to be lauded as the overlooked classic that it is.

Listen to the full album (1984 reissue) here.