Ambient 1: Music For Airports

Brian Eno

EG/Polydor, 1978

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” - William Congreve

Granted, nearly 300 years had passed between the time that Congreve wrote those words and Brian Eno released Ambient 1: Music For Airports in 1978 (initially on Polydor in the United States). But while listening to this disc—one I picked up on a whim at a library sale—the truth of those words rang out in all their muted beauty.

Make no mistake, there are going to be people who will listen to this album and hate it. After all, it is four tracks comprising of tape-looped musical sounds and human voices, all designed to essentially serve as a background for whatever the listener might be doing. The sheer minimalism of what Eno created could be enough to turn people off or scare them away—and even I have to admit that this one lingered on my shelf for about a year before I gave it a chance.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The thing is, the minimalism of the four compositions is what sets this disc apart. It doesn’t try to bash the listener over the head with shredding guitar solos or shrill voices. Its sole purpose—to this listener, at least—is to provide a calming atmosphere for the listener to be surrounded by. And by gum, it works.

I’m not going to pretend to be able to differentiate between “1/1,” “1/2,” “2/1” and “2/2,” other than to note that the middle tracks do utilize the human voice as part of the sonic landscape. But, if you listen close enough, you can actually hear what would be Eno’s influence on numerous other musicians. In some of the synthesized lines of “1/1,” I swore I could hear the birth cries of U2’s “Zooropa”—a track on which Eno played.

While Eno is considered to be the father of ambient music, I would dare to suggest that he was merely taking a musical concept that was utilized by such electronic composers as Vangelis, and pushing it to the next level. Whatever the case, the end result is amazing.

If Ambient 1: Music For Airports has any Achilles’ heel, I would say it would be in the area of repeated listening. Oh, sure, I could easily see myself popping this disc in whenever I’ve had a particularly stressful day. But, for casual listening? As much as I enjoyed this album, I can’t say this is one I’d go back to just for the fun of it.

Still, Ambient 1: Music For Airports serves its purpose, and serves it well. It will definitely require the listener to enter into the project with a clean slate about what they should expect—but if you are able to approach this disc on its own merits, you will be in for a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Rating: A

User Rating: B



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