A universally acknowledged masterpiece, Another Green World represents a departure from song structure and toward a more ethereal, minimalistic approach to sound. Despite the stripped-down arrangements, the album's sumptuous tone quality reflects Eno's growing virtuosity at handling the recording studio as an instrument in itself (à la Brian Wilson). There are a few pop songs scattered here and there ("St. Elmo's Fire," "I'll Come Running," "Golden Hours"), but most of the album consists of deliberately paced instrumentals that, while often closer to ambient music than pop, are both melodic and rhythmic; many, like "Sky Saw," "In Dark Trees," and "Little Fishes," are highly imagistic, like paintings done in sound that actually resemble their titles.
This is Eno's crowning achievement as a soloist. This album has both the pop songs and ambient pieces we expect from Eno…It was here that Eno first began to experiment with abstract soundscapes, to employ a greater spatial element and the ethereal synthesizer effects that presaged an entire movement of ambient music. While most of the tracks are instrumental, the numbers that feature Eno's peculiar, affectless voice and free-associative lyrics seem to blend into the fabric of the album. Superior guest musicians include John Cale, Percy Jones, Robert Fripp and Phil Collins. From the brain-bending riff of "Sky-Saw, through the elemental creeping of "Sombre Reptiles;" from Robert Fripp's looping solos in "St. Elmo's Fire" to the dark swirl of "Spirits Drifting," ANOTHER GREEN WORLD creates a superb series of sonic atmospheres that are rhythmic, expansive, strange and beautiful.
Finally bored with ambient music, a genre he pioneered in the 1970s, pop polymath Brian Eno emerged with Another Day on Earth, his first solo recording of "conventional" songs since Another Green World. From the rhythm track of opening song "This," the sound is unmistakable. A quirky hook covered in layers of atmosphere and a bouncy loop, it's a smart little tune with additional guitars by Leo Abrahams. Lyrically, Eno's process is poetic, employing not only his own strategies, but a computer generating words as well. At three-and-a-half minutes, it's a fine pop song, albeit one that would never get played on the radio.
The possibility of Someday World arose when Brian Eno invited Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde to listen to a series of intros he'd been unable to finish. The pair share a love for African horns and rhythms as well as dance music of all stripes. Eno enlisted 22-year-old Fred Gibson as a co-producer, and numerous friends including Andy Mackay and Coldplay's Will Champion. As much as this album is a collaborative venture – Hyde's vocal and lyrics are indeed signatures – its music is impossible to separate from Eno's career. References to his first four solo records are ample, as is his work with Talking Heads, David Byrne, and even David Bowie.
Overwhelmingly interesting and extremely variant, Jon Hassell's Dream Theory in Malaya is rescued from the stereotypical new age recipe, thanks to its ever-changing instrumental structure and the use of numerous eccentric instruments that emerge as the album progresses. The album's concept is taken from an anthropologist's 1935 study of a tribe of Malaysian aborigines who made it part of their daily routine to discuss the dreams they had the night before. To this story line, Hassell has created a novel and extraordinary set of instrumental meanderings that even includes a refurbished and re-fragmented set of rhythms that was believed to be created by the Semelai tribe.
Largely thought of merely as a mostly stillborn offshoot of Brian Eno's larger ambient music series, the Fourth World series of albums, in collaboration with trumpeter Jon Hassell, is actually an entirely separate beast. Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics starts off from the same basic idea as Hassell's previous solo albums, like Earthquake Island and Vernal Equinox: a blend of avant-garde composition, jazz soloing, and African and Middle Eastern rhythmic forms.