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(Legendary) Album Review: Brian Eno's 'Ambient 1: Music for Airports'


For most genres of music, it’s rather difficult to pinpoint their exact genesis, but within the realm of sonic otherness and intangibility which characterizes ambient, that definitive moment ironically exists. During one clear, near-perfect morning in 1977, the inclinations of ambient music as we know it today, began to materialize. Waiting for the arrival of his flight at the Cologne Bonn Airport, Brian Eno was repulsed by the music played within the beautiful setting. Of course, as any innovative genius would do with this discomfort, Eno began to think. He stretched his singular imagination into reality only he deemed conceivable, pondering what combinations of sound would do the near-perfect atmosphere justice. From this moment, Eno birthed excellence in the form of Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Amidst the glam of the seventies and the righteous rambunctiousness of punk rock, Eno provided perfected repose and space to breathe in 1978. Though Eno's leanings toward an ambient sound can be gleaned from earlier endeavors like his work with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius (Cluster), parts of Another Green World and of course, Discreet Music, his full immersion into ethereality came with Music for Airports, the first of four albums released in Eno's Ambient series Washed with heaps of synth, delicate piano, and a few moments of horns blaring beneath, this four-track masterpiece radiates with a spellbinding gravitas. Soothing, meditative, and sparse, it is easy to simply close your eyes and shut yourself off from reality when listening to this hypnotic epic. But what makes Music for Airports so special, is that it’s best enjoyed and most effectively experienced though hustle, bustle, and rapidity of everyday life—just how Eno intended it. As Eno once stated in an interview regarding Music for Airports, “it has to be interruptible.” Whether one is numbed by the briskness of their surroundings, accumulated priorities, and deadlines, lost in confusion and despair, or simply content with the mundanity of life’s simple moments, this album fills the gaps with poignancy and a feeling of suspension. While ambient is generally prescribed as background music for a moment, motif or movement through time, this pioneering piece of somberness operates less as a background and more so as a force that is very much alive—breathing a consolatory spirit into meandering thoughts—pondering both the rapidity of time and the turbulence of life’s highs and lows. Even if you do not particularly enjoy ambient music, Eno’s breathtaking and forward-thinking alchemy of sound and emotion is a reprieve and a warm embrace through time and space—one that sets the stage for the listener to notice the beautiful subtleties through life’s commotion and tumult. Given the importance this record bares and how influential it has become in the 40 years since its release, there’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said, maybe then, it is one of the most vital listening experiences when you simply consider the evolution of modern music as it is today. As introductory this may sound, for listeners curious about ambient music with no idea where to begin, there’s no other way to turn than toward the magnificence that is 1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports.



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