Another Green World

Released 1975 on Island/Polydor
The Seth Man, June 2004ce
Completing the ex-Roxy (non-) Musician’s first phase of recordings under the designation ‘Eno,’ “Another Green World” was a bold point of departure and arrival and one that simultaneously foreshadowed and would influence his artistic activities of the immediate future with a rapid succession of projects: launching his own Obscure label (and with it his entirely instrumental “Discreet Music” album); briefly joining the West German super group Harmonia; recording twin albums with the synthesizer duo Cluster and most notably: influencing David Bowie’s “Low” and “Heroes” albums. Appearing on the back cover photograph sporting a far more practical haircut, the sleeve signaled a new-found economy that perfectly matched the nature of the music within.

A quietly minimalist index based in the subtle application, balance and arrangement of colouration and rhythm, “Another Green World” was Eno’s first solo album with no involvement from Roxy Music members whatsoever. And the musical explorations within reflected this, developing into something wholly unlike his previous two records. It was as though Eno’s previous position of repetitive idiot savant aggression and vocal camp attacks had been exhausted, retired and coaxed forth into seamless studio prototypes of multi-layered repetitions while at the other end of the spectrum his hymnal vocal approach was all but replaced with brief and voiceless musical forms outlined only by diffused edges, as though they continued for far longer and were determined only by strategic framing of silences placed fore and aft.

Once the first two songs of “Another Green World” have passed, the use of drums as a main rhythm propellant is abandoned altogether and replaced by eccentric configurations of manipulated beat boxes, treated percussion, keyboard sequences or sometimes a combination of all three. Track by track the paring down of elements continues while maintaining an impressionistic and texturally rich series of vignettes imbued with a responsiveness to detail as each piece resolves itself through organic processes where precise sounds and tones only hint at emotional spaces, geographic locales and time transmitted from a remote location. All the while this resolute objectivity persists as alterations to point of view and momentum shift subtly at the speed of weather, as though Eno set out to make every moment of the album’s fourteen tracks a separate but connected series of events from a variety of vantage points. Follow the rhythm closely and the remainder of the song blots into the background. Focus on one of the rare vocal sections -- the lead or especially the background vocals -- and some of the most calmly enunciated words ever recorded in Rock are there in their lilting, measured and unhurried paces reciting lyrics that only hint at fragments of meanings.

Dotting the album’s progression with intuitive timing are seven instrumental pieces performed, recorded and multi-tracked by Eno alone: “In Dark Trees,” “The Big Ship,” “Another Green World,” “Sombre Reptiles,” “Little Fishes,” “Becalmed” and “Spirits Drifting.” These alone comprise half of the album’s sum total fourteen tracks with an additional five vocals songs and a further duo of instrumentals rounding off the album. And despite the near dearth of vocals throughout “Another Green World” as a whole, suggestive narrations are conveyed in the instrumentals, re-emphasised not only their picaresque titles but the imagistic labeling of instrumentation (as in the instrument credits of ‘Uncertain piano,’ ‘Anchor bass,’ ‘Spasmodic percussion’ and so on.)

“Another Green World” is quietly reflective and its gently understated borders between tracks (as well as space and time) slip away at a variety of paces with all the economy and natural assembly of a Japanese rock garden. A fade out in stepped proportion to the rhythm will sometimes float off altogether in silence as the inner rhythmic mechanisms of the pieces and the manner of their placement generates a variety of outcomes. One being an ‘audio moiré’ effect where two separate parts’ infrequent actions coordinate into unlikely but effortless combinations that create a mood or feeling entirely unrelated to either elements’ unintended maneuvers. A striking example occurs at the end of “In Dark Trees” where a feeble but unremitting rhythm generator pulses out a series of subtly changing rhythms that reverberate in the distance as insects connect in fractured Morse code and pinball to and fro from positions yards apart. Suddenly, at a juncture only moments in length it all comes together to create a melody: One that will never repeat again and never could have occurred in the first place through conventional music making. Then again, Eno’s musical disciplines -- whether based on intuition, cybernetic diagrams, the chemistry of players involved, prompts from his deck of ‘Oblique Strategies’ or just by continuing inquiries into the process of music through a wide variety of means -- were as unorthodox as there were realised. And the results reflected this perfectly as they abandoned preconceived notions while radiating extraordinary degrees of insight and innocence at every turn. So much so, I’m refraining from injecting my own perceptions as bringing one’s own experiences to the album is what makes “Another Green World” such a successful work. It’s an unfathomable procession where moments of intimacy and mystery exist fully integrated throughout, with the result an engaging album that only gains with each listen, no matter how superficial or alert.