Another Green World

Brian Eno, 'Another Green World'
'Well I mean obviously when one’s dealing with words like “real” which are so ambiguous as to be almost meaningless – almost any statement can be true. But what I mean to say is that you can afford to expose yourself to uncertainties in art that you wouldn’t allow yourself in real life. You can allow yourself to get into situations where you are completely lost, and where you are disoriented. You don’t know what’s going on, and you can actually not only allow yourself to do that, you can enjoy it.'
Brian Eno
I took a train to my parents' home in the valleys, and I've secured a small space for myself in what was once my bedroom. When the door is closed, the room feels and looks very quiet; it sounds quiet, too, for that matter. I'm alone with my past. But before I have a chance to get profound about it, I realize that this is not the same room after all. There have been two major renovations in the time since I left, and to some extent the very structure of the room has been altered: wardrobe space has been torn out of the wall, painted, and new bookshelves have been installed in their place.

I have gathered together a pile of unread books, eight clothes hangers, and a bag with my other personal affects. I'm home for the Christmas period, so I am determined to make the place my own. Not in the same way that it was when I was a teenager, when the walls were plastered with images of my favourite personalities or Radiohead posters. But my own in a smaller, more modest way. A few books on the bedside table, and an internet connection on the desk: this is all I need nowadays. I'm not going to stay long, perhaps a week or so; and this room has become a purely functional space for me now.

But, as some things never change, I begin looking for something to listen to while I clear away the old objects. I've heard Brian Eno's name a few times recently, so I thought I'd spin one of his older records, an old favourite, in fact: Another Green World. It was the third solo album since his departure from Roxy Music, and took a new direction from its two predecessors. Gone was the quirky glam pop of Here Come the Warm Jets (a reference to the male orgasm there, if ever there was one) and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Another Green World adhered to that tired, dreary idea of the concept album, but managed to energize it with something fresh and exciting - and a little bit strange.

Brian Eno in 1976
I'm always struck by how catchy the songs are. Not that most of them really resemble songs: only five of the fourteen tracks have any lyrics. Another Green World feels like a selection of moods, or atmospheres, that have been constructed in a logical and cohesive way. I can remember listening to the album back in the Cardiff a year or two ago, and how cold everything was. I'm always drawn to the album during the autumn and winter months, if at all, because there is something bleak about the music that seems to suit the scene. What it gives the city is a shimmering soundtrack, and is no less poignant for that.

The music, at times, is very sparse. A few piano notes, a synthesizer, and space to breath. But it's staggering just how affecting the music can become. More than once I've choked up in the middle of 'Becalmed' or 'Zawinul/Lava' or 'Everything Merges with the Night'. There's an instrumental piece entitled 'The Big Ship' which sounds so grand and evocative and romantic that whenever I play it I stop whatever I'm doing and dream off for a few moments. It just sounds so grand and so majestic. And beautiful.

The record feels split between these sparse gestures, atmospheric instrumental pieces such as 'In Dark Trees' and off-hand lyrical ditties like 'I'll Come Running', which I love. There are so many counterpoints in the music, that every time I listen it feels new. But, of course, there is a familiarity there, too. And listening to Another Green World comes complete with an odd kind of welcoming sensation, as though no matter how strange or unsettling the atmosphere of the instrumentals, it's a world you're happy to inhabit. At least for awhile.

I remember reading some time ago that Another Green World was one of the key inspirations for David Bowie's Low album, and formed one of the central reasons for Enos recruitment to the project. It's not difficult to see why, either. 

Another Green World shares some of Low's defining qualities, from its playfulness with the structure and forms of songwriting, to its earnest attempt to create stimulating and compelling musical spaces through the instrumentals. Of course, there are many differences too. But I think it's interesting that whenever I listen to Low, it's never too long before I come back to Another Green World; a record I can happily listen to on repeat all day long, unobtrusively, in the background.