I have to confess that I’m certainly no Enophile much less an expert on electronic music. It’s as if the genre’s cold and mechanized compositional aesthetics have been constructed by and large for unthinking automatons, to the extent that one almost needs to be made of optic fibre and silicon chips just to relate to it. Not so in the case of Eno, I’m happy to say, whose Another Green World seamlessly merges the best of both spheres (i.e. electronic, and non-electronic). In fact, this album is so good, it makes the overly disciplined Kraftwerk look like a foursome of C-3POs hired by Hewlett Packard.
Opener “Sky Saw” is a bit of robotic funk, where Eno’s digital guitar effectively manages to slice through your senses, while Phil Collins and Percy Jones, on drums and fretless bass respectively, carry the whole thing along, stretching and pulling the space time continuum along the way. Think James Brown being interpreted by a brainy bunch of astrophysicists from Cambridge.
“Over Fire Island” is a short instrumental, with more drumming and fretless bass (Collins and Jones), where Eno gets to explore his sci-fi side. There are what I am sure are space ships flying overhead, and maybe even an alien knocking on the front door. The whole thing could be an alternative soundtrack to War of the Worlds.
“St. Elmo’s Fire” is a love song, Eno style, replete with lively percussion, synthesizers, and Robert Fripp’s unmistakable chord explorations, which pierce and zig zag everywhere and nowhere at the same time; like atoms smashed together in a particle accelerator, unleashing new sub-atomic elements in the process.
On the brief instrumental “In Dark Trees” we have Eno playing all the instruments, in as far as one really does feel as though they are submerged in a forest. “The Big Ship” is another short lived synthetically treated number, where Brian throws in everything but the musical equivalent of the kitchen sink. And now we’re back into pop territory with the devotional “I’ll Come Running”, which finds our author wanting to be the “wandering sailor”, whose only purpose it seems is to “tie your shoes”. The song has a plastic-Latin feel to it, with more tasty licks from Fripp and, can you believe, “castanet guitars”.
Usually the title song of any album is the centre piece, maybe even the ‘epic’ of the album itself, but not in Eno’s case. “Another Green World” is like briefly standing on the shore watching the sun set as the stars rise; all in one minute and forty-one seconds. “Sombre Reptiles” is a reprise of “In Dark Trees”, where once again our ‘Maestro’ plays everything from Hammond organ, guitars, “Peruvian percussion”, and “unnatural sounds”. When Eno composed “Little Fishes” was he thinking of goldfish? Because that’s about how quickly it will fade from your memory once you’ve heard it. Not so “Golden Hours”, during which we are treated to a rare vocal performance from the man himself, whose delivery and lyrical style owe a great deal to that other psychedelic Frankenstein of experimentation, Syd Barrett. But the instrumentation behind it is far more complex and evolved than anything Syd himself might have had the capability to think of. John Cale plays viola; Fripp adds more of his binary technique, while Eno, and I quote from the album, plays “Choppy Organs, Spasmodic Percussion, Guitars, Uncertain Piano”. “Becalmed” is, as the title suggests, a peaceful spacey number. Likewise “Zawinal/Luva”, which based on the piano led introduction is, I assume a nod to Joe Zawinal, of Weather Report fame. “Everything Merges with the Night” is a serenade for lovers of computer programming and synthetic sunsets.
It all ends with “Spirits Drifting”, itself sounding more like some atmospheric interlude than a final conclusion to what is ultimately an extremely interesting and sometimes even haunting listening experience.
Eno is certainly something of a wizard when it comes to creating unique and eccentric aural landscapes. And unlike many of his electronic contemporaries, perfection seems to be the least of his intentions, which is what makes Another Green World so endearing. If only the digital children of today were as thoughtful and organic in their own creations.