Review Summary: An overlooked gem in Eno's large discography.
Brian Eno might be one of the greatest music mavericks of the last 100 years. The man has been apart of so many projects, ranging from pop and rock to ambient music. Simply put, the man has experience in many types of musical projects. Perhaps most interesting was towards the late 70s, when Eno pioneered what was to be known as ambient music. Starting with a collab with Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame in the early 70s, his association with ambient continued, somewhat unnoticed with his release "Discreet Music", a combination of original compositions and some older classics (Canon in D to be precise.) And in 1978, with the release of "Ambient 1: Music for Airports," it was viewed as a classic of the genre. But, in the same year, Eno also released "Music for Film," a collection of songs intended to be used in films. This release tends to go unnoticed, as it's overshadowed by the ambient series Eno is most known for. But, surprisingly, "Music for Films" contains some of Eno's most atmospheric, emotional, and strangely nostalgic songs, EVER.
Compared to his other releases, "Films" has a very warm sound to it. All the synthesizers have a rich, but not too overpowering bottom end, and range from long swelling pads, to electric piano sounds. But what really lets "Films" stand out above all other Eno ambient releases is the use of other instruments. Guitars string sections, bells, and the electric bass add a touch of raw instrumentation to the developing synthesizers, and the result is something magical. For one reason or another, the real instruments give "Films" a more nostalgic and positive sound. This is present on the opening track, 'Aragon.' While only a minute long, the bass and sliding acoustic guitar set the tone, which as mentioned previously, nostalgic and warm. This is a completely different take on Eno's ambient, as it normally gives off a more melancholic vibe (Ambient 2 and Ambient 4 come to mind.) The cold, vast atmospheric sound of later Eno records isn't present on this record for the most part. Don't get it confused, these are atmospheric pieces, but not in the same way as, for example, "Ambient 4: On Land." Rather than the sense of otherworldliness, these songs make you feel as though you're resting on a grassy hill, after a long day of playing in the summer heat, and watching the sun set ever so slowly. It's a very unique feeling, that is for the most part absent on most ambient releases nowadays. The three tracks, 'Sparrowfall 1, Sparrowfall 2, and Sparrowfall 3," fit perfectly with the feeling of a sun setting on a summer day.
Now, all of the tracks are good, but "From the Same hill," is simply put, masterful. The electric piano synth lead just melts as it fades in, and it meshes together perfectly with the acoustic guitar that comes on about 20 seconds in. It has just the right amount of reverb, and hearing the sliding of fingers up the guitar strings is calming and nostalgic all in one. As the song progresses, a string section, a lighter pad, and a quiet piano come into the song and the result is simply one of the most human, if not the most human song Eno has ever released. Hearing this song for the first time, it reminded me of when I was about 7, and after a long day at the beach, and taking a shower, I was sitting in my family's beach house, watching the sun slowly fade behind the water off the deck. It's one of the most moving experiences I've ever had from any song.
I could go on and on about the magic that is "Music for Films." But the only way to know for sure is to listen for yourself. Prepare yourself to be brought back- this is one nostalgic trip.