Brian Eno – Ambient 4 / On Land (1982)

My “first contact” with Brian Eno was through the 1997 “Space Night 3” compilation. Space Night was a late-night/early (early!) morning TV show on “BR” (Bayrischer Rundfunk, Bavarian Broadcasting) – photos/film sequences from/of Space were combined with Ambient and Chill-Out music. It was my personal “chill out hour” during the weekends after Saturday nights that turned into Sunday mornings while clubbing. The track on that compilation was “Mountain of Needles” (YouTube) from his collab album with Talking Heads’ David Byrne*, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts“.

I became more interested in his music after reading David Toop’s book “Ocean of Sound” (Amazon) where he describes “Ambient 1 / Music for Airports” as a work that was meant to be not consciously listened to. I bought a copy and tried that myself, and indeed, I could play this music while reading a book and not be distracted by the music. With my interest sparked, I acquired the other albums in the “Ambient” series. While neither Ambient 2 nor Ambient 3 did a lot for me, Ambient 4 / On Land really hit the spot.

Ambient 4 / On Land front cover

And clearly, this is an album that is meant to be consciously listened to. Unlike the crispy, clear and cold atmospheres of Biosphere’s “Substrata” (previous post), this entire album has a very “organic” feeling to it – with it’s warm, fuzzy, sometimes a little eerie, enveloping analogue sounds and drones, it conjures up images of sweltering, hazy marshlands, or foggy forests at dusk with fireflies dancing around; a moonlit swampland in summer with buzzing mosquitoes, and perhaps beaches, hazy with ocean spray from onshore winds.

And I had this feeling and these associations with music before I read the liner notes. πŸ™‚ And most likely, there was no genre definition such as “Dark Ambient” back in 1982, but I consider Ambient 4 / On Land definitely crossing into this terrain at times (track 2 “The Lost Day” is such a hauntingly beautiful dark piece, with quite an amount of tension brooding beneath the surface).

Other than Bandcamp, I’m not using any streaming services – maybe the album is available on Spotify or iTunes and whatnot, I don’t know. It is available both remastered and as MP3 on Amazon. And of course, the whole album can be found on YouTube, multiple times even. I hope that Brian Eno benefits from your clicks there. Personally, I think it would be about time that he’d be granted knighthood – I mean, come on! Elton John being a “sir” and Eno not? That’s just wrong. πŸ™‚

*) outside the scope of this blog post series, I’d definitely like to recommend David Byrne’s album “The Forest

4 thoughts on “Brian Eno – Ambient 4 / On Land (1982)

  1. Hi Alexander

    I have been listening to Eno for over 30 years and have come to the conclusion that he is one of the great thinkers and artists of our generation. He does not really consider himself a musician but others would disagree. I think he is more of a “sound architect” πŸ™‚

    The wide range of things he involves himself is fascinating and reminds me on Leonardo Da Vinci. One example is the long now protect ( which fosters long term thinking – much missed in western society (particularly by politicians – but I better not start on that).

    I would agree about some of the ambient music as background and I have used it as such, helps concentration even. Other recordings are far from ambient (e.g. albums Another Green World or Before and After Science) but all show a thirst for sonic exploration πŸ™‚

    Cheers, Archie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The most remarkable thing to me is still that it was entirely intentional to create the images the music conjures up, and make the associations to landscapes. I really haven’t read the liner notes until I listened to the album for a couple of times – I simply liked the music and what it did to me very much. To then find out that it is a concept of the album (and implemented so successfully) was astonishing, to say the least. πŸ™‚


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