When discussing ambient music, Brian Eno is impossible not to mention. The man is unquestionably the most important and influential figure in the genre, not to mention that he coined the term “ambient music” with his seminal 1978 masterpiece Ambient 1: Music for Airports
. Eno has made several critically acclaimed ambient albums over the years, and his 1983 opus Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks
is considered one of the finest of his discography, despite some unevenness that prevents it from being a classic.
A great deal of Apollo
does its job perfectly. The production is warm and hardly sounds dated, in keeping with much of Eno’s discography. The emotional range is broad, from the dark and mysterious (“Under Stars”, “Matta”) to the relaxing and ethereal (“Stars”) to the downright euphoric (“An Ending (Ascent)”). There’s plenty of innovation to be considered here, too; the use of guitar on “Under Stars” and the almost animal-like sounds of “Matta” are particularly noteworthy. Among the best tracks here, there is variety, both of colour and texture, without sacrificing unity; there really is enough to keep one listening for hours, despite the minimalistic nature of the music. There are a good handful of very special successes here that should not be missed by fans of Eno’s other ambient albums.
There is a significant break, though, in the consistency of Apollo
. Tracks 8-11, being more guitar-oriented and occasionally resembling country music, are not bad by any means but feel somewhat out of place. The vast majority of the album has a great focus on synthesizers and more mysterious sonic landscapes; the space-rock stylings of most of its second half sound completely different and do not fit within the context of the other tracks at all. If those tracks had been omitted and “Stars” had been placed immediately after “Drift”, the album would have worked excellently as a whole, and if “Silver Morning”, “Deep Blue Day”, “Weightless”, and “Always Returning” had been put together on an EP or another special release, they, too, would have fared much better.
Despite this, though, Apollo
is still a fascinating listen that should merit many spins for ambient music fans. While as a whole it may not rank among his finest works, there are several individual tracks here that certainly would, and so it shouldn’t be left out of the collection of any Eno fan. That being said, though, if you are new to Brian Eno’s work or want to explore the classics of ambient music, don’t start here; listen to Music for Airports
, Aphex Twin
’s Selected Ambient Works, Volume 2
, or Biosphere
before you bother with this.