35 Albums in 35 Years: 1983

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it.  Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.


brianenoapollo1983: Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

Drop the needle, take a step back, close your eyes…and float.  A meditative state.  Serenity.  Tranquility.  The feeling of weightlessness in space or under water.  Eyes closed and legs crossed.  Deep breaths.  Transcendence.  Such is Brian Eno’s 1983 ode to the Apollo moon missions, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, the perfect sonic picture of the wonder of space travel.

I boarded the Eno train back in high school, a result of hearing “Deep Blue Day” for the first time in the film Trainspotting (it’s used to wonderful effect in the toilet swimming scene) and from the enthusiasm this one kid I knew had for all of Eno’s work, but specifically his more ambient albums.  For the life of me, I cannot remember that guy’s name, but he was quirky and a little strange, wearing the same bright orange and puffy jacket everyday, regardless of how hot it was outside.  He hung out with a group of misfits I associated with on occasion.  Today, you would probably call them hipsters, but back then they were just geeks.  And they listened to great music.

Originally, I did not want to pick multiple albums from the same artist on this 35 Albums project, but Apollo just could not be ignored.  I think that more than any other album ever, it sounds like what it was inspired by.  Apollo so perfectly captures the colors and sounds, the textures and moods, the light and the darkness, the utter stillness and loneliness of outer space and the moon that it is the audio equivalent of weightlessness.  Of floating.

In an effort to really create the mood and majesty of the Apollo missions, Eno, along with fellow collaborators Roger Eno (his brother) and Daniel Lanois, crafted their space opus using electronics, soothing synthesizers, hum and noises, and country guitar processed and echoed into ambient bliss.  Eno’s goal was to cut through the fuzzy TV picture and audio as well as the endless and incessant journalist chatter that had originally accompanied the images.  His goal was purity.  Haunting beauty.  Tracks like album opener “Under Stars” and “Signals” set the atmosphere for the piece, the dark and cold of space and the placidity of the moon’s surface as portrayed by ambient hum and complex textures.  “Deep Blue Day” on the other hand uses a country and western guitar melody echoed and layered with synthesizers to soundtrack our man-made machines as they move through the stillness and tranquility.  The effect is gorgeous.

The album highlight for me will most likely always be “An Ending (Ascent),” a fairly straightforward electronic piece, but one that sets such a somber and lonesome mood that it transcends its original intent, becoming the kind of musical composition that could readily score any melancholy scene dreamt up.  It’s been used in film and as a sonic blueprint for other musicians’ work.  I also saw and heard it used to powerful effect as the backdrop music for a Hiroshima exhibit at the WWII Museum in New Orleans.  It was an eerie and moving pairing.

Ambience.  Drone.  New Age.  Minimalism.  Moody space music.  I am a fan.  It’s Brian Eno’s fault.

- Favorite song: “An Ending (Ascent)”

- Runner up: “Deep Blue Day”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again; Daniel Johnston – Hi, How Are You?; Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones; New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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