Discreet Music
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2005
The first, title track, is over 30 minutes of sonic bliss
that never ever gets boring and only gets better with
repeated listenings. Fantastic discreet music to play while
you're involved in creative activities. It's probably the best single
track of ambient music I've ever heard. The remainder of the CD,
at first, doesn't seem to match the mood...but after that initial
observation the BEAUTY shines through...so the whole CD is great.
The other Eno ambient CDs I'd recommend are: Ambient 2, with Mr.
Budd on piano; Ambient #4: On Land; and the Apollo Soundtrack CD.
As far as Ambient 1, Music for Airports...well, this is a prime candidate for the greatest CD of all time.
In sum, all other ambient CDs can only hope to be in the same
ballpark as these Eno masterpieces.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 13, 2005
One of the early masterpieces of ambient music, Eno's "Discreet Music" really defies description. Broken into two halves, the extended "Discreet Music" and "Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel", the music is delicate, balanced, beautiful, and stirring.

"Discreet Music" consists, per Eno's description in the liner notes, of "two simple and mutually compatible melodic lines of different duration stored on a digital recall system" that are occasionally altered "by means of a graphic equalizer". Put simply, two loops play, of differing lengths, for the period of about 30 minutes, rising and falling, swelling and coming and going, intertwining with each other. What is most amazing is how these two simple statements can be so unbelievably powerful, emotionally overwhelming, and purely engaging. It is really one of the finest pieces in all of Eno's catalog.

The Pachelbel canon variations are somewhat less interesting, though still quite enjoyable Again from the liner notes, "[e]ach variation takes a small section of the score (two to four bars) as its starting point, and permutates the players' parts such that they overlay each other in ways not suggested by the original score". The result is breathtaking, and adds a familiar resonance to it.

Anyone interested in ambient music should likely start here or with Fripp & Eno's "No Pussyfooting". If you don't have "Discreet Music", you should. Essential listening.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2005
For an artist that has helped shape the musical map since the 70's, and remained a sterling producer, and also has a album workrate to put most musicians to shame, it's truly surprising that Brian Eno, has so many absolutely essential albums to his name.

Here we concentrate on the period where he Created/Produced a series of defining 'Ambient' albums in the mid-late 70's, that although not the first to produce ambient albums, mastered the form to such a degree, that some 20-30 years on, these albums are frequently referenced, when discussing the genre. Although as much an electronic album as it is an ambient album, the mood here is one of detached sounds, restrained instruments and a slightly Eerie, and atmospheric solitude. using a system of two reel-to-reel tape recorders, and making the (relatively) simple process of layering sounds on top of one another, Eno was able to make stark simple sounds, from such instruments as...keyboard, synth, organ, but layer them in such a way that although the music rarely changes direction, it's beauty comes in the form of its simplicity. The first track...the epic "Discreet Music" is really nothing more than a melancholic & slight sounding relaxation drone. But its what Eno does with the sound and the use of spacial sound, that truly makes this impressive. Brief compositions of synth are gradually brought in and out of the mix, and although most listeners won't realise it on the first listen, but the relation of these elements changes over time, albeit it very gradually, and coupled with the subtle use of noise and resonance, it reveals a sound of soothing 'ambience' that washes over the listener.

The "Three Variations on the Canon in D Major" is more consistent with the stylisation of 'Classical' music, with it less akin to 'Ambient' music, and more in keeping with the compositional elegance and arrangement of piano led orchestration. which has a rather melancholy and restless feel to it, and the tone of the strings/piano feels vastly different to the synth-led first track, and its arguably the more immediate track, due to its more noticeable increase in volume/tempo, and although a more rounded sound, still remains very delicate and gentle. In fact imagine these beautifully crafted tracks as works for soundtracks for films that were never filmed, as it's deeply beguiling and littered with the romanticism that became a trademark in Eno's series of 'Ambient' Albums. As it's all so precisely performed and tremendously realised, that one can't help but fall in love with this incredible album. If you picked up any of Eno's other 'Ambient' albums, I really can't stress enough, how utterly recommended this album comes, It's not only considered one of his finest 'Ambient' albums, but also just a truly exceptional album regardless of the genre. Utterly Essential
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2000
I believe Discreet Music is Brian Eno's greatest work. Similar to the style of his Ambient album's this CD is great for just relaxing to, or playing in the background on a quiet night. The half hour tape loop track "Discreet Music" is based on many different short loops from a synth, and is great for falling asleep to. If you own the popular "Music for Airports" this is a must have. Evern though Discreet Music is a phenomenal track my favorite part of the album is the variations on the Canon in D. He shows his master over the tape loop with these variations. He takes small portions of that masterpiece and transforms them into a reinvestigation of the entire piece and creating a brand new ambient style masterpiece.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2000
The history of ambient music (as so termed ambient) begins with "Discreet Music," Eno's lp of background music.
The story of Eno's hospital stay and how he came to realize the power of audible vs. inaudible sound, has been told over and over again. The importance of that realization radically and wonderfully changed the way music was made and listened to. It's now commonplace, and necessary, to take atmospherics and ambience into consideration when recording an album. Any number of computer controlled channels on an audio engineer's board or in effects equalizers can sonically control, enhance, or distort, the ambience of a recording. As an engineer, I do it everyday, never thinking twice.
It's hard to imagine that before Eno, such sonsiderations were rarely hit apon, except in classical music, mainly. yes, effects were commonly used, but mainly to distort, and not so much enhance, a recording.
"Discreet Music," therefore, is a landmark recording, and shows Eno's inherant understanding of the reality he stumbled upon that day in the hospital when the volume was just low enough to be audible but little else.
The recordings are great. "Discreet Music" is a masterpiece of texture and ambience, while his interpretations of "Canon in D" showcase his willing to experiment some in classical music (as was Harold Budd, at the time. Eno was working some with Budd so I have little doubt that this influenced Eno on these tracks).
The album is pure gold and a landmark in music history. Get it and find out why.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2002
The first piece, "Discreet Music", is a beautiful, pastoral bit of process music--two separate lines of soothing electronic woodwinds changing timbres and relations for a half hour. An excellent example of the "less is more" philosophy, where the number of notes a piece has is necessarily in inverse porportion to appreciating harmonic and structural potential sound can generate.
The three variations on Pachelbel are far less successful. To me, only the first--"The Fullness of Wind"--is interesting, because of its opening seconds, when the recognizable fragment of the canon promptly falls apart as the time values change, and extend themselves off into the distance. By the end of the piece, a single pulsing chord is being held.
The other two variations have their moments, but...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 1999
Eno's Discreet Music was a good transition for him (and can also be a good one for an Eno listener) between his serialist experimenting with the sound of Robert Fripp's guitar and his more muted ambient works that came after "Music for Airports." The title track is thirty minutes of unobtrusive melody; it goes on a bit long, but it is wonderfully relaxing (not boring, but relaxing) if approached in the right frame of mind. Side Two could not have been more different. Eno takes a cue from his deliciously eccentric rock records and, with the help of Gavin Bryars, disfigures that other piece of "relaxing" music, the Pachelbel Canon. Gyorgy Ligeti, the Hungarian composer, once described an orchestral piece of his as "a body in various states of decomposition." What we have here is much the same--the Canon as a dead carcass. It's utterly riveting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
It's May 10. Exactly 10 years ago today, an article appeared in The Independent (a British periodical) entitled "50 Eno Moments." The article is on the EnoWeb, a site devoted to Brian Eno and his total accomplishments which now go well beyond music and producing bands like U2 and James.

An "Eno moment" is a fortuitous chance event or decision which totally changes your approach to something, and maybe your entire life. If you're an Enophile, you've probably had a few "Eno moments" of your own. I know I have.

One of these Eno describes: hospitalized after being struck by a taxi in early 1975, a girlfriend brought him a record of harp music. However, one of the channels had failed, it was raining, the sound of the rain was drowning out the music (implied in the account), and Eno was unable to get up and fix things. He relates how at first he was annoyed, but then realized that he was having a different and totally new listening experience, of music as part of a much larger environment and not even necessarily the most important part.

Recordings like DISCREET MUSIC came out of that. It's a very simple recording - a handful of notes played on a cheap synthesizer and recorded on tape loops of apparently different lengths so that they repeat, fall in and out of sync with one another, and create a quiet environment piece that could have begun at an indefinite moment in the past and continue indefinitely in the future. It actually clocks in at 30 mins and 35 sec., which is quite long considering that this was first released on vinyl as one of the first three releases on Eno's Obscure Records label (now collectible; I still own a copy I could probably get good money for if it didn't have sentimental value). Eno has a diagram of the technology that created DISCREET MUSIC on the sleeve.

This was one of the first compositions of "ambient music" designed to integrate smoothly and almost unnoticeably into a larger environment; it was recorded roughly the same time as the classic EVENING STAR (recorded with Robert Fripp) which features a few "bars" from this under the title "Wind on Wind." Later, we would have the better-known MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS and follow-ups such as THE PLATEAUX OF MIRROR and THE PEARL (both with Harold Budd), the incredible ON LAND, APOLLO: ATMOSPHERES AND SOUNDTRACKS, and eventually the music Eno would use in his installations as a visual artist (e.g., COMPACT FOREST PROPOSAL).

Of course, Brian Eno didn't invent the uses of repetition in music or even the use of tape recorders. He had studied the works of composers like Cornelius Cardew, LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and others which "ordinary" people find unlistenable. But when he created the "ambient music" genre, he took what they began to the next level - "humanizing" it with something that really is listenable if you give it half a chance.

If you've been listening to most of what today gets marketed as "ambient" (sometimes as "ambient-techno" or "ambient-dub"), that's not the real thing. As I believe Eno says somewhere, it's too "busy." DISCREET MUSIC, like its follow-ups listed above (especially ON LAND) is the real thing. This CD is a classic, and belongs in every serious Brian Eno collection.

Oh, the curious title I gave this review. In five days as I pen this, Brian Eno will turn 60. Think of this as the "60th Eno moment."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2005
For an artist that has helped shape the musical map since the 70's, and remained a sterling producer, and also has a album workrate to put most musicians to shame, it's truly surprising that Brian Eno, has so many absolutely essential albums to his name.

Here we concentrate on the period where he Created/Produced a series of defining 'Ambient' albums in the mid-late 70's, that although not the first to produce ambient albums, mastered the form to such a degree, that some 20-30 years on, these albums are frequently referenced, when discussing the genre. Although as much an electronic album as it is an ambient album, the mood here is one of detached sounds, restrained instruments and a slightly Eerie, and atmospheric solitude. using a system of two reel-to-reel tape recorders, and making the (relatively) simple process of layering sounds on top of one another, Eno was able to make stark simple sounds, from such instruments as...keyboard, synth, organ, but layer them in such a way that although the music rarely changes direction, it's beauty comes in the form of its simplicity. The first track...the epic "Discreet Music" is really nothing more than a melancholic & slight sounding relaxation drone. But its what Eno does with the sound and the use of spacial sound, that truly makes this impressive. Brief compositions of synth are gradually brought in and out of the mix, and although most listeners won't realise it on the first listen, but the relation of these elements changes over time, albeit it very gradually, and coupled with the subtle use of noise and resonance, it reveals a sound of soothing 'ambience' that washes over the listener.

The "Three Variations on the Canon in D Major" is more consistent with the stylisation of 'Classical' music, with it less akin to 'Ambient' music, and more in keeping with the compositional elegance and arrangement of piano led orchestration. which has a rather melancholy and restless feel to it, and the tone of the strings/piano feels vastly different to the synth-led first track, and its arguably the more immediate track, due to its more noticeable increase in volume/tempo, and although a more rounded sound, still remains very delicate and gentle. In fact imagine these beautifully crafted tracks as works for soundtracks for films that were never filmed, as it's deeply beguiling and littered with the romanticism that became a trademark in Eno's series of 'Ambient' Albums. As it's all so precisely performed and tremendously realised, that one can't help but fall in love with this incredible album. If you picked up any of Eno's other 'Ambient' albums, I really can't stress enough, how utterly recommended this album comes, It's not only considered one of his finest 'Ambient' albums, but also just a truly exceptional album regardless of the genre. Utterly Essential
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2002
I was only three years old in 1975, so I can't give you a big speil on how it fried my mind back in the musical wasteland of the pre-punk mid-'70s. The truth is, I only heard this album for the first time about 5 years ago, after many years of brutalising my ear drums with all kinds of punk rock, free jazz, garage, noise, and varying genres of experimental music, and let me just say that coming at it from that perspective, this still sounds revolutionary.
Sounding like an ambient orchestra on heavy tranquilisers, the selections here may appear monotonous upon first listen, but as you come back for more, you realise the sly, subtle changes in the music that envelope as the songs progress. The title track, a whopping thirty minutes in length, takes a single motif and drags it gloriously into the ground for its entire length. A bizarre mixture of inoccuous and menacing sounds, the effect is overwhelming.
Possibly even better are the remaining three tracks, a "musical trilogy" (Spinal Tap, here we come) of sorts, it takes Pechelbel's notorious "Canon" opus and twists and loops it to disorienting effect. Mesmerising.
An astounding, futuristic piece of work, "Discreet Music", like the "furniture music" Eno so admired of Erik Satie, can be listened to whilst driving, gardening, reading or most importantly, for the simple pleasure of hearing it. An essential purchase for the open-minded.
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