Friday, 3 October 2008

No Pussyfooting with Oblique Strategies

A new version of this 1973 classic has just been released, and raises some interesting points. It is considered one of the first ambient albums, though Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh got there first. There was an element of surprise that Robert Fripp, he of King Crimson, and Being married to Toyah Wilcox fame, seemed to change tack quite so radically. Just two long tracks full of Eno's Enossifications of Fripps highly compressed laser guitar lines, with the First track, 'Heavenly Music Corporation' Being absolutely beautiful, and still on another listen, surprisingly proggy in places. The Second Track, 'Swastika Girls' is slightly less successful, not wuite having the same flow or impact, but it remains an album that is perfect for the right chilled moment. Wallpaper music it aint.

The interesting bit about the release is that is has expanded to two discs, with the extra tracks being reversed versions of the two tracks, prompted by the fact that celebrated DJ, the late John Peel famously played the whole album backwards by mistake (when playing it from a reel to reel tape player in case you're wondering how!) and only Brain Eno noticed. Apparently when he rang up the BBC to point this out, he was met with the reply 'Yes we get a lot of comments like that about this stuff' or something very similar! Also included is a half speed version of 'Heavenly Music Corporation' , which runs to 40 minutes, prompted perhaps by Sid Smith (as stated in the liner notes) who used to play it at the old 16 2/3 speed that some record players had.
It is an interesting exercise, and I'm not entirely sure that it undermines and makes redundant the artistry in creating music like this, which lets face it, has more than its fair share of detractors. well, it's either that, or it displays the absolute brilliant genius of the music in that it can be played backwards, forwards or slowed down (why did no one speed it up too?) and still stand up as impressive. Or would no-one notice, as did Mr Peel, Fripp, BBC et al?
Perhaps it could have been instigated by a forerunner of Eno's and The late Peter Schmidt's 'Oblique Strategies' a set of 100 cards first published in 1975, that give guidance to the perplexed, ponderous and procrastinating. In this time of people needing something to guide them ever more as the wend their way through life, surely a pack of cards is as good as anything? It certainly seems to work for artists, but I wonder if a politicians speech, a ministers sermon, or a workplace meeting would appreciate such an exercise?

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