It’s the time of year for saving money!
It took me a bit to get my head around the new Brian Eno recording, FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE. Once I understood it’s intent, I was able to allow myself to follow this legendary artist on the deep musical journey contained within.
For those not familiar with his music, Eno is one of the pioneers of what we now commonly refer to as “ambient music.” He is also a leading light in experimental musics including with collaborators as diverse as King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, Harold Budd, Jon Hassell and The Velvet Underground’s John Cale. Eno also has a great legacy of his own having come out of Britain’s legendary glam rock band Roxy Music. After leaving the group, he created four particularly inspired rock oriented recordings in mid 1970s before mostly directing his career towards ambient soundscapes, soundtracks and audio-visual installations around the world.
While FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE is available on vinyl as well as streaming, it is also available as a surround sound experience which will be the focus of this review. Mixed into the new Dolby Atmos format and available only on Blu-ray Disc, the album delivers a rich immersion which can take the listener even more into Eno’s mindset than the Stereo mix.
The music on this new Eno record is beautiful but admittedly a bit heavy as it is warning people about what is happening on our planet and its likely effects on mankind.
His website explains: “It’s a sonically beguiling, ultimately optimistic exploration of the narrowing, precarious future of humanity and our planet. As Eno himself concludes, “Briefly, we need to fall in love again, but this time with Nature, with Civilisation and with our hopes for the future.”
While it isn’t all doom and gloom, FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE isn’t the dreamy, optimal bliss he explored long ago on tracks like “On Some Faraway Beach” from his solo debut Here Come The Warm Jets (“Given the chance I’ll die like a baby on some far away beach, when the season’s over….”). A beautiful track like “These Small Noises” offers a harsher endgame vision (“Go to Earth, our hair on fire, go to Hell, in Hell to burn).
I think you get the idea… this isn’t easy, but many things that are good are worth working to appreciate.
The mix on FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE is gently immersive yet very effective, delivering music and sound effects from all the surround channels and fields. One of the challenges of mixing for Dolby Atmos is that it is a format originally (primarily?) designed for movies in theaters, not necessarily music. So an artist has to really consider what they want to do with those additional channels to make a compelling, notably the new “height” channels.
I have heard some remixes of older music into Dolby Atmos and most have been quite disappointing as the producers simply added a bunch of artificial reverb, not really thinking about the experience as a three dimensional space where discrete information can be delivered to the listener.
On Eno’s FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE in Dolby Atmos you’ll hear distinct detailing coming from each of the speakers at different points. Whether it’s a chime or the chang-like sound of an exotic bell, or some other kind of sparkly percussive instrument, all of these combine to create a beautiful, rewarding listening experience. At points you’ll feel like you are sitting in the out of doors, perhaps in or near a forest, with birds tweeting and other sounds of nature around you.
The Super Deluxe Edition website offered some useful additional insight into Eno’s creative process in making this new Dolby Atmos listening experience. Engineer Emre Ramazanoglu reported: “It was fascinating approaching this Atmos mix with Brian in the room. He approached the mix in an extremely unorthodox fashion, removing the concept of a ‘front’ in the mix stage. It’s a fully immersive experience unlike others I have mixed. The song was still kept at the heart of the Atmos transformation though and he paid enormous attention to the position of each element and how that supported the piece as a whole. There will be also be differences from the stereo mix other than the spatial reimagining, due to the creative process that involved certain elements being subtly different from the original stereo masters.”
In many ways surround sound is the ideal way to hear FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE because it’s all ultimately about nature and man’s relationship to it. As I said earlier this album is a little bit heavy so don’t go into this expected to hear purely soothing music. Eno sings on most of the tracks on here his voice is rich and compelling. Lyrically some of the songs may deliver a gut punch but that is the point. Ultimately, FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE is a wake up call. Listen with open ears and open mind.
Brian Eno’s FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE in surround sound was only available for a limited time from the Super Deluxe Edition website, which is where I ordered my copy from. It is sold out at this point but if there is demand perhaps there will be another pressing run. It’s well worth getting if you have a Dolby Atmos set up and are into Eno’s music.