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XXXV: 1977 Brian Eno - Before and after Science

Brian Eno - Before and after Science

I hesitated to choose the third Eno album in this series (1973 may yield a 4th one though the second Roxy Music will be a tough contender) but I realised that what I like about Bowie's Low is its strong Eno touch on the mainly instrumental second atmospheric side. Eno on his own (plus guest musicians) in 1977 to my ears still sounds more adventurous and timeless than the dark and brooding Low. Which additionally hasn't got such a classy black and white cover.

Like Low Before and after Science has two totally different sides as the title already suggests. No. 1 is more rhythmic, no.2 is more like a soundscape. An album which stands in-between his earlier avant pop output and his later ambient releases. Two music worlds are juxtaposed and I find the result of this approach still as thrilling as in the late seventies when I listened to it for the first time. To be honest this is the only album I bought in that mostly dreadful decade for me which I still love today. Kiss, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, Genesis and Eloy were the bands I cherished in the first half of my teenage years. None of them stood the test of time. I can date back my obsession with music to the purchase of this Eno record which I bought in a record shop in Duisburg about 15 kilometers from my home town. I think I went there by bicycle after having read a review in Die Zeit which still is the only newspaper (a weekly) I read regularly.

It starts with the wonderful groovy piece No One Receiving. One of the greatest moments of Phil Collins. His reverberating drums give this track a light and almost ballet-like quality. A simple bassline dominates the song which is uncategorisable. Somewhere in between world, jazz, dance and pop. Weird and enchanting.

Backwater is even weirder. The piano is part of the rhythm section. Eno sings surreal lyrics about god knows what. The melody is in the singing, the instruments are following later. And then there is this handclapping. I hear some irony there and it sounds bloody good.

More bass wizardry on Kurt's Rejoinder which features Kurt Schwitters recitating one of his dada poems. Clever collaging.

On Energy Fools the Magician we enter soundscape land. Phil Collins hi-hat sounds like a triangle, Eno's "vibes" like a synthie, his keyboards like a piano, his chorus like a women background choir, Fred Frith's modified guitar (?) like a glockenspiel, only Percy Jones fretless bass sounds like a bass. Around 80 seconds in the bass seems to fall over like when you walk too fast and you lose the equilibrium. But then the music does not turn around, it goes on in its majestic calm way. Disappointed expectations. Altogether only two minutes but in those 125 seconds there is more happening than in the entire output of many musicians.

The next song seems to be the turning point. King Lead's Hat. An anagramm of Talking Heads with whom Eno worked later on, I think. More handclapping accompanies a trashy rhythm. This used to be my least favourite track on the album. It feels a little out of place here sandwiched in between two slow atmospheric pieces as it is very upbeat. When Robert Fripp's guitar solo comes just before the two minute mark my love for this song starts to grow though. This beautiful warm and fuzzy King Crimson sound is so perfect in small doses. Paul Rudolph provides some sudden bass chords which seem to act like a stopper but it goes on. Finally it all goes kind of electronic. Eno doing his "metallics". I hear the sound of champagne bubbles and I get very thirsty.

Side two shoots off (not really ;-)) with Here He Comes. As so often Eno offers us an earcatcher as the first song on a side. A languishing beautiful melody about a boy who "was seven feet high". After a minute the song intensifies itself by getting melancholic and even more beautiful when Eno holds his breath for a second and elongates the syllables by singing "coooomes" and then "bloohoohoohoo". What always astounds me about his voice that on one hand it has this totally asexual almost robotic tinge and then it can get so sentimental.

Julie with... ("her open blouse is gazing up into the empty sky") is the longest song on the album. Six minutes and twenty seconds starting slowly in a dreamy way. We are drifting on a calm sea. The first resolution (or dénouement) comes after two minutes. More drifting and a second resolution after four minutes. The gorgeous cruise resumes. I wish I had been there.

Piano time. A tiny theme. By this River is tenderness pure. The proof that beauty is simple. Eno's singing inevitably turns into humming. Words fail. The song was used in the German movie on RAF terrorism Die innere Sicherheit by Christian Petzold whenever the daughter of the terrorist couple left the doomed family to find herself. In Portugal on the beach for example. A young, innocent girl dreaming of a normal world outside of the hiding and the lying. It's a great film and an even greater song.

Through Hollow Lands is the track of this record that haunted me most in the late 70s. An instrumental which I taped in a loop on a C90 cassette. I listened to it for meditation purposes. Impossible to ever get bored by it. As there is hardly anything happening in it. No highs, no lows, just an incredible serenity. I never arrived to the point where my thoughts stopped. Patience has never been my stronghold.

Eno closes the album with Spider and I. Synthie plains going slightly towards the heavy. It's not bad but by far not the best on this stunning album. Which probably would be my island disc if I had to choose one Eno record. As it comprises the Eno before and after the accident. A watershed album with the watershed right in the middle.

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part XXXV was this post.


yeah, great selection and the memories you mention only add to the piece. the cover of Low is just as striking but not as original, maybe?

... link  


eno -- before & after science

excellent review of a great album (although it's my second favorite eno, next to Another Green World). damn, though, never thought of the lyrics to Julie With. . . in manner of your addendum post, above. But it does make sense. hum, will change way i hear the song from now on (not that i'll enjoy it any less!). thnaks again.

... link  

... comment

last updated: 2/23/21 8:55 AM
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