Thursday, August 05, 2010

Another Green World
Geeta Dayal
(Continuum Books)

Another Green World is an exceedingly difficult album to wrap one’s head around, to get a solid grasp on. By turns archaic, abstruse, experimental, and gregariously accessible in the way that children’s nursery rhymes are, Brian Eno’s celebrated 1975 masterpiece seems simultaneously of-a-piece and jigsaw. As a college undergrad cutting his teeth on a steady diet of second-wave Cali-punk, out, IDM, Krautrock, and indie-rock, World made absolutely no sense to me. It conflicted wildly with the ideas I had at that time about what goals music should seek to achieve, and how it should seek to achieve them. On the advice of a classmate who thought he was Lou Reed, I bought a copy, listened a couple times, and unceremoniously sold the thing off. Nearly a decade would pass before I was really ready to reckon with Eno, from a more enlightened vantage point, to recognize the value of the man’s many and sundry compositional approaches. (Did it help that, in the interim, I’d acquired a Weather Report album? Probably.)

In her 33 1/3 series book about the record, author Geeta Dayal is less interested in World’s actual content, impact, or meaning than in the paths and circumstances that led him to record it in the way he did. Eno -- who has garnered more acclaim over the decades for his abilities as a producer than as a solo artist -- recruited pop and avant garde heavies like Robert Fripp, John Cale, and Phil Collins, challenged them to work in unusual ways, recorded them, and manipulated the results into something refreshingly, familiarly alien. There next to no songs written prior to the sessions; the album was written on the fly. Eno, Dayal writes, “has a knack for identifying and assembling the right mix of people to serve a larger vision, and the ability to coax unexpected performances out of these collaborators. He approaches music the way a director might approach a soundtrack--as a means of establishing a mood, a sense of time and place.” World’s synthesis owes a great debt to the Oblique Strategies cards Eno had a hand in devising, and outgrowth of creative techniques he learned as an Ipswich Art College student: think of them as cryptic, wildly interpretative “affirmation” cards for use in encouraging studio spontaneity, unleashing a bit of chaos into the songwriting process. Percy Jones’ ponderously funky “Sky Saw” bass line, for example, was born when Eno, frantically tapping a single piano key, instructed the bassist to improvise based on the rhythm of the tapping. Dayal’s book ultimately winds up being less a World tell-all than a portrait of an artist at a particular point in his career, stuffed with enough carefully chosen quotes and reportage to show that she spend a long time sorting out how to approach her subject -- something she alludes to in her introduction. World is compared and contrasted with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Eno’s Discreet Music is dissected. At moments, it feels as though the author is talking around the recording at hand, but the realization that that might be what she’s doing feels huge when one considers how strangely easy and a priori Another Green World is: it resists and repels analysis, seducing us with its lushly dark-yet-illuminated swathes of looped tones and infrequent, mediated vocals. You feel it much more than you could possibly think it through. -Ray Cummings


RadioHotbodies said...

hey this is probably the wrong place to leave this but i can't find your email on here. either way...

my names josh boyd, i make music under the name hotbodies. you gave my last album a really good review in signal to noise magazine a few years ago (thanks btw.) i have a new album i would like to submit for review. it's downloadable at

hope you listen to and dig this one

josh boyd

Raymond Cummings said...


Interesting - I always wondered whether Hotbodies was still a going concern.

I've downloaded, and will check it out soon. Thanks for checking in with me!