Review Summary: "(...) as ignorable as it is interesting." Eno
Obstructed, crushed between the evisceration pop trilogy that proceeds with it and the environmental period, full of innovation and masterpieces, which follows him, Discreet Music
is an album that is little heard, undervalued and often overlooked. However, it undoubtedly represents a very important turning point: environmental music appears for the first time in its most mature, emotional and complex form in Eno's discography and does so with a class that is undoubtedly laudable.
While on Another Green World
one can still hear pop songs with an ambient aesthetic, Discreet Music
offers Eno's first pure ambient feeling, full of wattige synthetic sound worlds open up to the listener. Meditatively, the spherical sounds are repetitive. Still, everything flows. The melodies are no longer important in this context; there is actually no recognizable melody line in the true sense. Here everything depends on textures of sounds, strongly influenced by classical music.
It starts with a 30-minute title track, an experiment of a synthesizer sound sent through reverb into a tape recorder, resulting in loops overlaying each other. Originally intended as a background for Robert Fripp to play against in a series of concerts, its repetive nature creates an amazing atmosphere. Unlike No Pussyfooting
, where the continuously cycling phrases create tension and anxiety, Discreet Music
is effortlessly relaxing and yet beautiful. The real beauty of this track is that is does serve perfectly as background music, but also holds up strongly if one chooses to pay full attention. Then, there's three Johann Pachelbel variations, which are jewels of musical expressionism, sketches of music from the future, description of thoughts and moments of reality that move in melodies heard and written very well. Surely these tracks are interesting and pleasant enough, but it's not nearly as engaging as the title track.
All in all, there is a freshness and innocence of discovery within Discreet Music
that is not seen on any other Eno ambient album even if later releases may be considered objectively better. Often overshadowed by Ambient 1: Music for Airports
, this is the true birthplace of Eno's ambient work and a strong precursor to Eno's following ambient landmark records. No one should leave behind such a dowelling and well constructed album as this one.