Woke up this morning … well you can fit your own blues-based joke in there, maybe your woman done left you / done you wrong / left the top off the toothpaste / was hogging the duvet, but sorry I’m getting side-tracked again. I woke up this morning, early and it was frosty for the first time this Autumn. I don’t mind cold weather so much, it can really make for a beautiful morning*. I knew exactly what to reach for to soundtrack it too Brian Eno Ambient 2:The Plateaux Of Mirror the LP he did with pianist Harold Budd, from 1980.
This is quite a different LP to Ambient 1: Music For Airports, which was reviewed by my favourite ever writer here, this LP is more about creating a consistent mood and atmosphere. It works for me too, although the various tracks do all bleed into one in my memory. If I mentioned frosty mornings before, it wasn’t accidental, ‘First Light’, ‘The Chill Air’, ‘Wind In Lonely Fences’ and ‘Among Fields Full of Crystals’ do exactly what the titles promise. Chill atmospherics and gentle crystalline piano abound. In one sense it is a very simple album, there are touches of synth, a few chimes and a soupçon of voice-as-instrument bits (on one track only), but mostly we’re back to basics here. This is not the soundtrack to getting ready to go out on a Saturday night.
Incidentally, I have always thought the naming of instrumental tracks to be a particularly random thing, with vocal songs there’s an obvious link and (usually) a logic to the song name. Okay so the music here sounds like frosty mornings and so on, but how much of this is psychological? if Eno and Budd had called the songs, let’s say, ‘I Like Big Butts’, ‘Shoot ’em in the Nuts’ and ‘Naked Bitchaz 4’, would the pictures in my head be radically different when I sat there with my eyes closed listening to it yesterday morning? very probably. It’s a chicken and egg thing. The Orb tried a similar thing around the time of Orbus Terrarum, giving their songs fairly silly names but that turned me off them, I appreciate I’m maybe not a representative sample of humanity but I suspect that the audience needs to feel some connection between the song sound and the name for security reasons.
The cover is thematically linked to the other three LPs in Brian Eno’s ambient series, I think it looks a little like details from a relief map of central Wales. Frankly it’s not good enough. What Brian and Harold needed to do was call upon the services of a renowned, dare I suggest, world-renowned LP cover artiste such as myself, I reckon I could easily have ‘punched it up’ a notch and secured them megasales immediately. Basically, just as I did with Black Mountain you need to get back to basics. Who buys ambient LPs? guys. What do dudes like? chicks and fast cars (it’s an aspirational thing, especially for nerdy dudes like US fellas – let’s be honest). So, having fed all this into the supercovertron back at 1537 HQ, I’ve come up with the following:
It’s okay, stop applauding when your hands start to hurt, please. Guaranteed 8m sold if they reissue it with this cover. Okay so I’ve had to change the name a bit, Budd & Brian sounds a whole lot friendlier and less intimidatingly intellectual, abbreviating the title to ‘P.O.M’ makes it sound a lot more like hipster slang for an unspecified sex act than ‘Plateaux of Mirrors’ and the ‘Hell Yeah!’ on the side of the car is just all about the ‘tude, man. In any case I think that nothing says frosty, crystalline ambience more than a bikini clad chick on a car bonnet, with her boots still on – because it’s cold, get it? Seriously Brian get your people to call my people.
Even with the original cover this is still a really good LP for those times you need it, just as with Ambient 1: Music For Airports I would argue that the fact I feel that this is background, wallpaper music is not meant in any derogatory sense at all, Ambient 2: Plateaux of Mirrors just takes you somewhere specific and keeps you there for the duration. It’s music that perfectly complements daydreaming, or reading, or plotting imminent world domination. A frosty treat.
*remind me in 4 weeks time when I have to defrost two cars when I’m already 15 minutes late for work and I’m screaming expletives at the uncaring firmament.