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Mark Smotroff explores a new ambient music score…

Well, this is a twist…

While the Record Store Day edition of Brian Eno’s Rams original soundtrack album eluded me, I have happily been sent a copy of the possibly even more limited edition, one-time pressing compact disc that was issued earlier this year to appease the many fans who were not able to get their hands on the vinyl version. 

For those of you not familiar with this release, a bit from the official press release will explain the album’s intent:

Eno scored the soundtrack to an intimate documentary about Dieter Rams, one of the most influential designers in history. It takes an unprecedented look at the life and legacy of the man responsible for so many iconic designs, and in line with the aesthetic of the film, the director Gary Hustwit asked Brian to write the original score because of ‘a connection between Dieter’s design sensibility and Brian’s music.’”

In a way, I’m almost glad to get Rams digitally first given the design of the package and the scope of the music which is fairly minimalist. There, structures frequently percolate around some layers of sound loops. Much space is allowed around notes for lengthy decay while sonic textures and treatments appear and dissipate. 

The first track on Rams — “Bright Clouds of Metal” — took me a bit by surprise as it reminded me (at least in a surface manner) of Eno’s earliest collaborations with Robert Fripp and their looping process which led to his “Frippertronics” work (some with Eno). 

But after that, Rams falls back on tones and melodies, burbles and bubbles, twinkling twilights and periodic dizzying dissonances.

“Designer Piano” is another favorite here with its sparkle-tones that remind me Eno’s DIY music creation app Bloom, yet with more of the sound of a vintage Fender Rhodes piano. 

“Generative Lounge” is lovely because we get to hear Eno playing what sounds like a traditional grand piano (albeit given some equally grand reverb and decay) set against periodic tapping on a tuned bottle or glass (at least that is what it sounds like). 

I immediately liked “Design as Reduction” which sounded somewhat familiar — turns out it was on the recent Film Music 1976-2020 compilation which I reviewed last month (click here to jump to that). It is a cool piece that gets a bit glitchy yet harkens back to Steve Reich-like textures.“Al’Khwarizmi Piano” sounds like sped up layers of fairy dusted starlight and “Shimmering Future” is just that.

Rams flows so beautifully as an end-to-end album listen. It looks back to some of Eno’s earlier works yet looks forward. I’ll put it this way: I could easily put this music on a playlist alongside tracks from Discreet Music, Evening Star and Apollo and they would all likely play well together. Even just on a standard CD, Rams sounds remarkably warm. 

If you like your melodic ambient Eno in concise three to five minute nuggets, Rams well may be your jam. 

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