Brian Eno – Ambient 4: On Land

21 Aug

Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle ‘Brian’ Eno’s Ambient 4 is possibly the most “human” ambient album ever made: comforting and serene, like sex, but also unchallenging and sterile, like sex with a dead person. Eno’s use of “instruments” like sticks and stones as well as recordings of frogs and insects give the album an organic feel that departs strongly from the electronic noodlings of his previous band, Genesis. I picked up the album last weekend from a library and recently listened to it in a car in the early morning. This is perhaps the best way to appreciate ambient works: Ambient 4, like most in the genre, merely floats.

It’s been said that Eno’s ambient albums are shapeless, but I think motionless is a better description: Ambient 4 never moves beyond a crawl, it enters your stereo as more of a sensation than a sound. As Eno says in the liner notes: “Everything that happens is a part of the landscape”. Notions of space and distance become blurred.

All things considered, though, Ambient 4 is not a masterpiece. Though it’s high on atmosphere and masterfully produced by Brian Eno of ‘Viva La Vida’ fame, it lacks the mood and mystery usually present in his work. Ambient 4: On Land is what its subtitle implies: background muzak to listen to in mundane situations, such as driving your car off of a cliff. Though the “human” aspect of the album gives it a unique feel it also limits its template; these pieces lack the beautiful melodic structure and pace of, say, Side 2 of Eno’s Before and After Science, or Toto’s ‘Africa’. Only “Tal Coat” breaks the placid flow of the album, and not in a very successful way.

In other words, this is good stuff but it lacks that extra dimension that classifies all great music. It’s still a solidly interesting listen for Eno fans, though.

Star rating: 3/5 stars

Bobby Slick

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6 Responses to “Brian Eno – Ambient 4: On Land”

  1. James August 21, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    Another very interesting review, I’ve always liked your descriptions. Never was much for Ambient 4 either, although I love Music for Airports.

  2. Megan August 22, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    Way cool! I’ve always wanted to get into ambient music, although I never knew how best to approach it.

  3. Bobby Slick August 22, 2012 at 2:20 am #

    Unlike other forms of music, ambient music is best enjoyed by simply listening to it rather than searching for emotional conviction. It slowly creeps into your consciousness, so after a while you naturally acquaint yourself with it.
    Bobby Slick

  4. Megan August 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    OK, thanks!

  5. crystal August 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Interesting take on ambient music…one of my favorite genres……
    Thanks, Crystal……..

  6. Race August 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Great review. Keep listening and writing…

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