Brian Eno

Sonora Portraits: Brian Eno

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Sonora Portraits is an odd selection of Eno's ambient work, compiled mostly from his Glitterbug soundtrack and Music for Films III. The disc serves as a supplement to its companion 93-page booklet of the same title. Materiali Sonori released the package in 1999 as a sort of celebration of Eno and his contribution to the ambient genre.

The booklet comprises four chapters: 1. Sound Ambience: Erik Satie, John Cage, Brian Eno; 2. A [1990] Conversation With Eno; 3. Driving; and 4. Ambient Music. In addition, there is a five-page chronology of Eno's work in the music industry (including a discography) and two pages of "Eno On-Line" -- URLs that link to information on Eno. The text is informative, substantive reading; several small black-and-white photos of Eno are thrown in for good measure.

The three diverse Glitterbug tracks on the Sonora disc are precious, as they're difficult to obtain in any format. While some of Sonora's ambience borders on environmental music, Eno detours and ventures into original hybridized forms on "Stravinsky" (classical synth), "Spinning Away" (mood-evoking vocal pop), and "Saint Tom" (atmospheric new age). The upbeat "Swanky" (from The Drop) and the percussive "Radiothesia III" (from Glitterbug) are ambient highlights. The final track, "Brian Eno Speaks," is a six-minute interview segment in which Eno expresses views similar to those presented on the Imaginary Landscapes video recording. He speaks of creating musical landscapes while attempting to remove himself and his personality from those landscapes. He also expresses his renewed interest in acoustic instruments, and makes several analogies between music and painting, as he often does in interviews and in his own writing.

A reasonably priced Italian import, Sonora Portraits is geared toward Eno devotees: those same fans who invested in (and were enlightened by) More Dark Than Shark (Faber & Faber, 1986), Imaginary Landscapes (Mystic Fire, 1989), and A Year With Swollen Appendices (Faber & Faber, 1996).

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