As I was watching an Of Montreal show in Los Angeles some months ago, I was inspired with a concept for a film. A space rock opera, wherein groovy interstellar musicians flew their astral bodies around distant solar systems in search of the Eternal Vibration that creates colorful harmonious orgies of reality.
In this daydream, Brian Eno was the original creator of this Sound, kind of like Philip K. Dick's VALIS entity (I know it's monotheistic but it was just a nerdy fantasy). He was the star of stars and the ancestor of all the spacey rock/jazz/electronic music out there. Of course, this is an exaggeration but he was and is damn inspirational even when his work is less than perfect.
His new album is his first in record in over 20 years to have singing on all tracks (not all the voices his). It is almost like an updated version of Eno's Nerve Net from 1992. Eno has found his voice again and it is clear and confident on Another Day on Earth. The cover photo of a Chinese market and the title correspond with the songs, suggesting a way to find beauty in the mundane. It is a friendly and humble album with subdued beats and synthetic drones, but don't think it is just one of his infamous ambient albums with vocals laid on top. It bears little resemblance to his 70s glam energy. These are certainly "songs" and they stick in your inner ear and, later, you will find them delicately coming out of your mouth in quiet, book-reading moments. This is true especially for the excellent opening track, "This": an optimistic reverie on life, which is poppy but has a bit of the classic Eno pitch-shifting vocals that dominated his early rock masterpieces like Here Come the Warm Jets. Even though I obviously am a great fan of Eno, I admit my first impressions of this album were impatient and I thought some of the songs were cheesy and overly clean. Like many of his works, though, it just took some time to appreciate this new phase of Eno's progression.
Eno's eyes see far beyond this time and his ears hear things that can be expressed only as otherworldly. Despite the clarity of the singing, the album is meditative and creates trance-like loops that stop perfectly short of becoming redundant. Many of the songs seem to be about globalization and unity. However, I couldn’t glean a political stance from the ghostly songs that seem more about global time than space. Some tracks have the sexy, sweet vocal quality of David Bowie, while others are digitally modified into octave-changing theremin-like harmonies. Most of the songs are serene and mature gemstones, with a few tracks like "How Many Worlds" being more whimsical - ballads for retiring space junkies trying to calm their nerves. "Bone Bomb," the last track, is a bittersweet item, with creepy female vocals by Aylie Cooke, about the peace that comes from dying after so many years of living through war.
While listening to Another Day on Earth, you may want to lie on the carpet and look up. Most people rarely look up. Up is the direction where many mythologies have placed the home of divine mysteries. Eno's aquatic harmonies let your body sink and the bass becomes gravitational. Your mind will follow your eyes. It is hypnotic music for getting metaphysical-like. I don't buy into the whole duality of mind/body or that up is holy and down is hell, but the music sounds more floaty and ethereal than subterranean. For fans, this is a consistent and pleasing record and, for Eno virgins, this might be a good place to start, working backwards into his ambient, thinking music and then forward to his glitter rock operas. I'm just thankful Eno is still as prolific as ever.
2. And Then So Clear
3. A Long Way Down
4. Going Unconscious
5. Caught Between
6. Passing Over
7. How Many Worlds
9. Just Another Day
11. Bone Bomb
- Joe Martinez