Tag Archive: Roxy Music


This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Brian Eno – “Another Green World” (Island/E.G. Records, 1975)

This month’s Classics Critiqued choice is many things. Universally recognised as the best album of Brian Eno’s 40 years plus musical career, a stepping stone to the creation of ambient music as we know it today and a modern classic that hasn’t aged in the way many albums released in 1975 have. “Another Green World” links electronic music’s past while looking forward into its future and would go on to be acknowledged by many as highly influential. Though in 1975 Eno had not yet taken the leap fully into the ambient music genre, it seems odd that “Another Green World” is perceived as a ‘song album and not an ambient album’ as only five of its fourteen tracks feature vocals. Geeta Dayal puts this down to the album’s sequencing as the vocal tracks are well spaced and longer than the brief instrumentals between them. In this article I will explore ideas about Eno’s creative process and the making of “Another Green World”, his ideas of exploiting the studio as musical instrument, the perception of Eno as a studio boffin and how he discovered ambient music and his founding concepts.

Before he made “Another Green World” Eno had released two solo albums in 1973 and ’74: “Here Comes the Warm Jets” and “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) respectively. With these albums he attempted to throw off people’s perception of him as the strutting peacock synthesizer operator of his previous band Roxy Music, which he was mostly successful at. He arrived at “Another Green World” with a sound that was hinting at a grey area between his rock music past and his ambient music future. This was the first time Eno had gone into the studio without any demos or songs completed. He used the guiding principle of his cybernetics hero Stafford Beer – “Instead of trying to specify in full detail, you specify it only somewhat. You then ride on the dynamics of the system in the direction you want to go.” All Eno had was the talent of his session musicians, a general concept, ideas for which instruments to use and his ace card: his musical ear and skill with synthesizers and processing sound.

Eno’s style is often described as being painterly but as Geeta Dayal expertly pointed out in her book on “Another Green World”, a filmmaking is a better analogy as Eno “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 collaborators.” This seems be crucial in both the creation of and our understanding of the album. Eno’s collaborators and engineer Rhett Davis recall Eno in a playful and experimental mood during the album’s creation. His experiments included creating 80 foot tape loops in the control room, breaking off in the middle of recording for a slice of cake, treating pianos with bits of metal under the strings or hammer, recording in stairwells and challenging Phil Collins to drum to a mathematical formula he wrote out, which frustrated Collins no end. Regular collaborator and lead guitarist Robert Fripp believed “The key to Brian, from my view, is his sense of play… Although Eno is considered an intellectual, and clearly he has more than sufficient wit, it’s Brian’s instinctive and intuitive choices that impress me. Instinct puts us in the moment, intellect is slower.”

The recording studio was an essential tool that Eno fully exploited on “Another Green World”. Recording in odd rooms/spaces and using the reverb  within Basing Street studio, a deconsecrated church, had a profound effect on the acoustic atmosphere present on the album as did Eno’s desire to push the limited analogue technology as far as it would go. Harold Budd, a future Eno collaborator, said of his use of the studio as an instrument, “The documentary aspect is part and parcel of most recording studios. You perform something and it’s captured, and it’s recorded and pressed and put out in the world. The part with Eno was just the opposite. You use the studio in order to get the sounds that are going to be captured, you know what I mean? It just put a reversal on it.” Eno himself said “… I strongly believe that recording studios have created a different type of musician and a different way of making music… Now this is obviously a very different way of working from any traditional compositional manner; it’s much more like a painting. So it’s clearly a method that is also available to the non-musician. You don’t have to have traditional technical competence to work that way.” In saying this Eno inadvertently planted the seed of the idea of the modern music ‘producer’ who can be anyone creating music with software and recording hardware in their own home, the completely autonomous non-musician and studio producer who needs no proven ability or experience.

“Another Green World” isn’t an album that has many direct decedents as can be said for most of Eno’s best work; he is a distinct artist who stands alone. However, the album and his other pure ambient albums that soon followed have influenced at least two generations of ambient musicians including Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, The Black Dog, Biosphere, Wolfgang Voigt (Kompakt co-founder) and a new generation that includes Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds, M83, Eluvium and others. The greatest legacy Eno and “Another Green World” have is the ideas behind them, the experiments, the imaginative titles that hint at what’s within, the inspirational devices such as the Oblique Strategies employed when the music itself wasn’t enough to fire the imagination. These ideas and the resulting album have remained central to electronic music for 37 years and I have no doubt they will continue to do so.

Stream “Another Green World” here.

Liam Flanagan (Sonic Fiction Editor)

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Pere Ubu – “The Modern Dance” (Radar Records, 1978)

This month’s selection for Classics Critiqued is similar to April’s Classics Critiqued choice “Y” by The Pop Group. Like “Y”, “The Modern Dance” is an album that regularly receives critical praise (it has been featured in 24 different critics’ charts) but it and Pere Ubu still seem in the shadow of their more accessible peers. “The Modern Dance” was the début album by Pere Ubu who had formed out the ruminants of Cleveland, Ohio garage rock band Rocket from the Tombs in 1975. Ubu founders David Thomas (vocals) and Peter Laugher (guitar) (replaced by Tom Herman when he died of drug and alcohol abuse in 1977) were joined by Tim Wright (guitar/bass) (replaced by Tony Maimone (bass/piano) in 1977 after he left to form no-wavers DNA), Allen Ravenstine (synths) and Scott Krauss (drums) in the band’s original line-up. Together they “combined art and garage rock – synth whines, cut-up tape loops, atonal howling and chronic distortion”. They released their first three singles on Thomas’ Hearthen label between 1975 – 1977.

These quickly established the band as one that was difficult to pigeonhole. They were instantly “recruited to ‘punk’ then gathering momentum as journalists continued to talk up the CBGB scene while monitoring the early stirrings of insurrection in London.” All this despite the prog rock like structure of “30 Seconds Over Toyko” and Thomas’ assertion that “our ambitions were considerably different from the Sex Pistols”, he saw punk as puerile and destructive, “Pere Ubu didn’t want to piss on rock music; they wanted to contribute to it, help it mature as an art form”. By 1978 and the release of “The Modern Dance” the band were primed to show the world they weren’t part of the reductive punk movement but closely related to their early ’70s inspirations such as Roxy Music, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Neu!, The Stooges, Brian Eno and The Soft Machine as well as their current peers The Residents, Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, A Certain Ratio, Scritti Politti, The Pop Group and Public Image Ltd.

An important thing to remember when listening to Pere Ubu is that they formed in Cleveland, Ohio, which was in the ’70s a shadow of its former glory as a giant in the iron industry. This permeates the music with a strong sense of solid concrete and a metallic feel. The band described their music as “industrial folk” and like their peers in Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool their music spoke of the landscape in which they lived without actually referring to it lyrically. The harshness of Ravestine’s synths, the razor-sharp, mechanical riffs of new guitarist Tom Herman and the motorik rhythm section all added to this feeling of industrial buildings and decay as a back drop to their music. The band “waxed lyrical about the area in their first interviews: ore-loaded barge floating down the Cuyahoya; steel foundries pounding flat-out night and day; the glare from the blast furnaces bruising the night in hues of green and purple; belching chimneys and lattices of piping silhouetted against the sky.” “We thought it was magnificent … like going to an art museum or something” recollected singer David Thomas 20 years later.

The band saw music as multi dimensional and used Ravenstine’s synth and tape loops to invoke images in the mind’s eye. “I’ve always been into music more on a visual than aural level.” David Thomas said of Ravenstine in a NME interview in 1978, “He’s at the core of Ubu, I suppose. He’s a very unusual synthesizer player. He’s very purist with it, and he doesn’t even have a keyboard – instead he has a touch tone dial. He doesn’t want to combine anything musical with the synthesizer, because he feels – and rightly so, I think – that it’s a new instrument and should be treated as such.” Drummer Krauss agreed “He’d make a noise like a five-pound can with a whole bunch of bumble bees inside” said “Krauss then he’d change the wave form and it’d sound like a beach with a load of people on it. Ten seconds later, it’s flip to a freight car noise. The imagination-activating level was absolutely amazing.”

However, the music wasn’t all doom and industrial gloom. The Cleveland sense of humour came into play in the band’s lyrics. “Thomas is more of an ‘actor’ than a musician for whom surreal lyrics and student humour attenuate the dramatic force of the performance. Within the sound there is also a feeling of resigned fatalism, collective madness and rational fear.” Thomas’ vocals aren’t that a typical rock front man he “wails, yelps, gargles” and exploits the full gamut of human vocal sounds to enhance and underline the emotion he’s expressing. “Thomas never got “the modern dance”. The emotions were real, but everything else was a joke, just like the music which has a good laugh as well with, skipping along amid the destruction and anxiety as the singer asks to be humoured – “it was just a joke mon.”

All this combined to make an album that from the opener ‘Non Alignment Pact’’s “furious, deafening bacchanal of cryptic slogans, ungainly vocals, discordant strumming, electronic distortions and primordial pulsations”, through the title track’s sound “of primordial organic funk…which evokes the smoke of factory chimneys and the ordered structure of the production line”, the sweeping menacing winds of ‘Street Waves’ evoking the miasmic gust after a nuclear explosion, propelled at supersonic speed by a stop-start rhythm and invoking a prophetic vision of the apocalypse. Finally finishing with ‘Humor Me’’s jangly jesting undercut by the lyrics and atmosphere of despair.

For such a complex album that combined the world’s art and garage rock or as the band punningly put it “avant-garage”, it has gone on to be a direct or indirect influence on many bands and artists since. The most obvious of these would be the Pixies. Their sound, surreal lyrics and the appearance of singer Black Francis all echo Pere Ubu. It’s unlikely that the earliest works of TV on the Radio would have been the same without a trail having been blazed for them and modern underground rock bands like Liars and Oneida plough a similar furrow to that explored on “The Modern Dance”. Cult rocker Julian Cope also covered ‘Non Alignment Pact’, which seems to be an acknowledgement of the band’s importance by one of their post-punk peers. Like “Y” by The Pop Group mentioned at the start of this column, “The Modern Dance” tests the very boundaries of what music, particularly rock music, is capable of before it becomes a tuneless mess. It won’t be the easiest listen ever but “The Modern Dance” will reward those who stick with it and consume all of its intricacies.

You can listen to “The Modern Dance” here.

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