Brian Eno

Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks

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From Brian Eno's Original Masters Soundtracks Series comes Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. Originally released in 1983 on EG Records, this Virgin incarnation betters the sound quality of the earlier Caroline CD release of this title and is a vast improvement over the vinyl. One can hear super deep tones in the music reproduced for the first time in a full-throated manner, and the perspective of distance opens into vast vistas of the emptiness of space, rather than into a haze of tracking error as did the long player.

Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks is usually cited as an Eno album, but it is actually a three-way collaboration between Brian Eno, producer Daniel Lanois, and Roger Eno. It was created for the Al Reinert film For All Mankind, in itself not completed until 1989, but ultimately lauded as the best film documentary on the early years of the NASA space program. Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, as one would expect, is appropriately spacey and slow moving, but is divided up mostly into rather short cues. Some of the first cues, such as Matta, make use of strategies that are oblique indeed; incorporating a small measure of inarticulate sounds, such as thumping noises, to help build tension, and as such is some of the most challenging ambient music that Eno has written.

Eno's adherents proclaim Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks as the best of his ambient productions, though it has an Achilles heel. Silver Morning, composed by Lanois alone, seems to stick out like a sore thumb in contrast to the rest of the material, its jangling and bright steel slide being sort of like Michael Hedges suddenly stepping out onto the barren surface of the moon. Deep Blue Day follows suit, but doubtless these tracks would not have been created if they didn't fit what they were intended for, and the participants were so enthusiastic about the two that at one point they were combined onto a limited-edition 45. By the concluding Stars, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks is back in its element, and this eight-minute ambient track truly is one of Eno's finest creations. Even though Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks may be more of a mixed bag compared to, say Music for Airports, as one reviewer said about its corresponding film, it is a shame that Apollo isn't longer than it is.

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