On August 4th, Astralwerks Records presents a limited edition of four deluxe gatefold, heavyweight double vinyl Brian Eno classics - Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World and Before and after Science. Each album is now spread over 2 vinyl discs, playing at 45 RPM and were half-speed mastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios, ensuring these seminal works sound better than ever before.
While Eno's output as a music and visual artist and writer of philosophy, science and socio- political theory is as prolific as it has ever been, his illustrious music catalogue spanning five decades still holds as much influence as ever.
With experimentalism, conceptual art theory and use of the accidental forming the foundation of these four albums, they challenged and broke through the boundaries of popular music that existed at the time. Elements of prog/psych/art rock, avant garde and 50s rock 'n' roll were married with an array of cultural and philosophical ideas to create music that was both visionary and captivating.
Alongside George Martin and The Beatles' work on Sgt. Pepper's..., Eno is arguably the other most pre-eminent practitioner of the 'studio as instrument' approach. His unconventional recording techniques have resulted in a canon of work that places him alongside iconic, visionary producers such as Brian Wilson, Lee Scratch Perry and Phil Spector.
As these albums progress chronologically, a nascent form of music begins to emerge. The ideas we hear in this early work continue to reveal itself in Eno's later ambient and electronic experiments.
Here Come The Warm Jets, 1974
Here Come The Warm Jets' hybrid of glam, prog and art rock continued in a vein similar to Eno's previous albums with Roxy Music, but further upped the experimental ante. In developing the album's words and music, Eno used unusual methods, including dancing for his band members - having them play accordingly, and singing nonsense syllables to himself, then forming those into actual words, phrases and meaning - a technique revisited across all these albums. The lyrics on Here Come the Warm Jets are macabre with an underlying sense of humour. They are mostly free-associative and have no particular meaning - another recurring method.
Eno enlisted sixteen guest musicians to play on the album, including John Wetton and Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Simon King from Hawkwind, Bill MacCormick of Matching Mole, Paul Rudolph of Pink Fairies and Phil Manzanera and Andy MacKay from Roxy Music and Chris Spedding. Eno selected them on the basis that he thought they were incompatible with each other musically. He stated that he "got them together merely because I wanted to see what happens when you combine different identities with the knowledge that there might be accidents, accidents which will be more interesting than what I had intended."
Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), 1974
"When Brian Eno calls himself a non-musician, he isn't confessing a fault or admitting a deficiency. His self-evaluation is a proud stroke against obsolete concepts in rock and roll. He is a madcap ringmaster in the centre ring, introducing an act that will not only make music sound different, but change what it means." - Original 1974 press release
Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) is a loose concept album with topics ranging from espionage to the Chinese Communist revolution. To help guide production of the album, Eno and the album's cover artist Peter Schmidt developed the highly influential Oblique Strategies cards which proffered instructions intended to aid creativity. They were also used on subsequent albums and are still consulted by Eno and many others to this day.
Unlike Here Come the Warm Jets, Eno used fewer guest musicians, instead opting for a core band consisting of Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackey, Brian Turrington and Freddie Smith of The Winkies, Robert Wyatt, Phil Collins, members of Randi & The Pyramids, The Simplistic and Portsmouth Sinfonia (an orchestra in which Eno had once played clarinet.)
Another Green World, 1975
From its release in 1975 to today, Another Green World has been heaped with accolades. At the time, Village Voice described "the aural equivalent of a park on the moon" and Rolling Stone called it "a major triumph, an important record - and also a brilliant one", whilst recently Q dubbed it "breathtakingly ahead of its time" and Pitchfork hailed "one of Eno's most important albums", placing it at # 10 in their Greatest Albums of the 1970s list, also scoring it 10 /10.
The album's music veers from the experimental sounds of Eno's previous albums - based loosely around rock - to the more meditative, synth-oriented instrumental minimalism of his subsequent work. Produced by Eno and Rhett Davies, like his previous solo efforts, Eno had several guest musicians contribute to Another Green World: Robert Fripp, John Cale, Phil Collins and his fellow brand X member Percy Jones.
Unlike his previous albums, Eno worked on more solo material, including 6 songs in which he plays all the instruments himself; 'In Dark Trees', 'The Big Ship', 'Another Green World', 'Sombre Reptiles', 'Little Fishes' and 'Spirits Drifting'.
Before and after Science, 1977
"He continually questions his activity. Intellect and senses question each other. He files in unexpected categories. He examines what he is taking for grated and stops. He acquires skills when they are needed, discards skills when they begin to stifle. He undoes what he has done, throwing way as much as possible. He does what is not done, regards nothing as insufficiently important. Turns even the smallest stone. He acts as an engineer, a servant to the music he is making. He uses himself as an orchestra, giving each element, even the least serious a worthwhile part. He breaks demarcations: sensual technology, mathematical lyricism, precise haziness, machine-like irregularity, moody arithmetic, surprising unexpectedness, exotic reasonableness." - Peter Schmidt, on "Why is Eno's Music Interesting" and "Why is 'Before and after Science' the way it is"?'
Produced by Eno and Rhett Davies, over 100 tracks were written with only 10 making the album's final cut. The musical styles featured range from energetic and jagged to more languid and ethereal. The album marks Eno's last foray into rock music in the '70s as a solo artist, with all his remaining records of the decade showcasing more of his ambient music, which was hinted at on the second half of Before and after Science.
Unlike Eno's previous albums, which were recorded in a very short time, 'Before and after Science' was two years in the making. During this two-year period, Eno was busy working on his solo ambient albums Music for Films and Discreet Music as well as Bowie's Heroes and Low.
On Before and After Science, Eno worked with Fred Frith, Jaki Liebezeit of Can, Cluster, Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention, Andy Fraser of Free, Percy Jones, Phil Collins, Robert Fripp, Paul Rudolph of Hawkwind, Bill MacCormick and Phil Manzanera (then of Quiet Sun) and Robert Wyatt, who went under the pseudonym of Shirley Williams.