There are two kinds of people in this world – those who like Brian Eno’s ambient and soundscape works, and those who like his glammy escapades with Roxy Music or his own arty outings. I don’t mind some of Here Come the Warm Jets – the title track is pretty neat – but for the most part his involvement with rock music was never as interesting as his invention – or mere formalization – of both an aesthetic and a genre.
Roxy Music always made my teeth hurt, even though they were gone before I was born, and I know people love Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy but I’ll be damned if I can understand why. Maybe you had to be there? Hugely influential (just ask TV On The Radio), and Eno has always been a talented producer, but the sum of all parts still leaves me cold.
We can all agree, however, that anyone who can save Fripp from completely disappearing up his own ass is a kind of saint. Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror is one of his two collaborations with Harold Budd (the other being The Pearl) and is easily my favorite of the whole “Ambient” series. It’s beautiful, but more importantly, it knows when to get the hell out of the way. Not only by keeping things under the five minute mark, but by engaging in dynamics and pacing. It’s all soft-loud, but subtlety hits you with more force because it’s not trying so damn hard. Like an understated quip from a British monarch that cuts to the heart of the matter well before the target of the witty wrath realizes what’s up, these are ambient jams; standing tall, gentle devil horns and lighters in the air, yet gone before you have a chance to spill your beer.