I know I’m obsessive to a point just south of OCD with my records, everything is alphabetized to the nth degree and then kept in date order, artists are filed by their first name* and bands whose name is a number have it filed under the alphabetical equivalent, e.g – 808 State, under E.  These I feel are the minimum requirements necessary for sanity and what essentially differentiates our  civilisation from savage barbarism, mankind from the apes,  I get uneasy when people start filing stuff by genre etc** I know it’s their call but I do fear that one day they’ll have to answer to St Peter for it.

Eno Ambient 3 05

Anyhow, whilst recovering from a hideous ravaging life-threatening illness^ recently I made a discovery that one of the quartet of Brian Eno’s ambient LPs, shouldn’t really be classified as a Brian Eno LP at all.  Ambient 3: Days Of Radiance, should actually be attributed to the African-American zither and hammered dulcimer player Laraaji and was produced by Eno, rather than written by him.  It was enough to cause a relapse for me, I sneezed and got a bit of a temperature, dear reader I don’t mind telling you, my life was in the balance.

Good night's sleep ...
Good night’s sleep …

This presents me with a horrible dilemma; do I, correctly, file this record between Lamb and Lard^^, or do I keep the quartet of Eno’s ambient records together? knowing that this is incorrect. This really is the sort of thing that would keep me awake at night.  If only I didn’t know, then I could have continued in my ignorant happiness – there has to be one of those piquant life-lessons here somewhere.  This is exactly the reason why, as a strict vegetarian, I don’t look too closely at the ingredients of things I really like.

Bad night's sleep ...
Bad night’s sleep …

But anyway, back to Eno Laraaji, Ambient 3: Days Of Radiance follows on very neatly from Ambient 2: The Plateaux Of Mirror – released earlier in 1980 – how prolific was Brian Eno at this time? as well as his outside production, he was dashing off LPs at a rate of two/year minimum, within another 6 months he would go on, with David Byrne, to release one of my Top 10 LPs ever, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.  If Ambient 2 is the sound of a cold frosty, misty morning then Ambient 3, is the sound of a cold frosty morning and incipient spring.

This is not an LP that sets much store by track titles.  Side A features The Dance: #1, #2 and #3, Side B Meditation #1 and #2.  Sadly the dances in question don’t happen to be the Watusi, the Hully-Gully and the Mashed Potato, so we don’t get much in the way of ambient frugging.  What we do get though, on the first side especially is a pure, crystalline loveliness.  Laraaji, I have forgiven him for messing up my filing system, plays a zither and hammered dulcimer throughout, giving the sound of a sitar and a harp combined, the effect of which is like listening to a perfect alpine stream.  Throughout the three distinct tracks various motifs, leitmotifs, rhythms and counter-rhythms are expounded and progressed.  What Eno adds is the production nous, notes are treated and elongated, mucked about with, all to alter their effects; he mostly exercises a beautifully light touch throughout.

Eno Ambient 3 01

Where Ambient 3 is much less successful is on the ‘Meditations’ bit.  This side of the LP, basically pre-empts the Orb and all those other 90’s ambient chancers by giving us a 19-minute track which, although I think was played entirely on acoustic instruments, has been treated and layered until it sounds like it was created electronically.  It’s quite a technical feat but, doesn’t really take us anywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a soundscape as much as the next man*^ but for it to be a little more than aural wallpaper there does need to be a sense of progression involved, otherwise I do find that I run the risk of ending up distracted/asleep.

Eno Ambient 3 02

For me this is the least successful of Brian Eno’s quartet of ambient LP’s purely because it has one side that is less than riveting, but it should be emphasised that this is solely in the context of some of the most extraordinary quiet music I own.  This also shouldn’t detract from the perfect clarity and beauty of the first side of this album; whichever artist it is filed under.

510 Down.

Hammered dulcimer - stolen from Wikipedia
Hammered dulcimer – stolen from Wikipedia

PS – Laraaji being the stage name of Edward Larry Gordon, whom Brian Eno came across playing in Washington Square Park.

PPS – I reached for this LP, partly because spring is, just, upon us but largely thanks to Mr VC’s excellent recent Eno post.

*when was the last time you found yourself thinking, ‘Hmm, lets listen to some Waits, Tom after I finish playing this LP by Lanegan, Mark’?

**I’m looking at you dad!

^I had a runny nose and everything.


*^ possibly even as much as Eno, Brian

13 thoughts on “Ambient Frugging

  1. Filing? I just have a big pile that spills out to make a rug. I don’t know much about “dulcimers” but I do know a guy that plays the electric snowshoe (no lie). CB is a ‘Faraway Beach’ guy.

  2. I will address the alphebetization issue.

    1) Bands with numbers for names (or beginning their names with numbers) go all together, and there’s a # section before A,B,C. My iTunes puts the #s under Z, and it drives me nuts.

    2) I would store all 4 of those records together, under Eno. Yes, this one would be wrong. But that is superceded by these all being part of a set. You can’t very well store 1,2,4 in one place, and 3 elsewhere. No. Put all 4 together.

    1. You’d file the 5,6,7, 8’s next to 808 state and 22 Special ? – that’s madness, I tell you! Madness!!

      They are all filed together (only sane solution), it nags me though and I wish I’d never noticed it. Bit of a first world problem, really.

      1. I surely would. Like I say, it goes like this: #-A-B-C-etc. Alphabetical by artist last name or first letter of band name…

        So for your examples, I would have it thusly:

        22 Special
        808 state


        Adams, Ryan
        Beach Boys
        Black, Frank
        Case, Neko
        Earle, Steve

        It’s really not so difficult, or much of a problem. Bands who have adopted numerical names have their own section at the start of the collection.

        No madness here! Just a difference of approach! If I put the 5,6,7,8s under ‘F’ for ‘Five,’ I’d never find the CD as quickly that way as if I just go looking for 5.

  3. Great stuff, I can totally relate to the first paragraph. I’m only familiar with the first Ambient album which used to serve as my go-to-sleep album and effectively so. I need to explore more Eno. I’m a big fan of the sonic landscapes he created for the Talking Heads’ masterpieces, Fear of Music and Talk in Light.

    1. Thank you! This is the weakest of the four Eno Ambient albums, but it’s still really good. I still can’t believe how many amazing LPs this man has made/produced.

  4. This Eno guy again? What’s this all about. I’m not familiar with any Eno albums. I am, however, familiar with the trials associated with the organisation of the record collection …

    1. Eno? He’s quite good. Fact. Although I’ve always been disappointed that he’s never collaborated with Yoko, can you imagine the ‘Ono Eno’ LP? Good one for using up leftover vowels at Scrabble.

  5. i remember the twinge of disappointment when I first got this album home and discovered the graphic deception of its cover. Who’s Laraji? Where can i hammer a dulcimer? Actually it was more deceptive than you think: my copy (playing now, in the background) arrived inside a different EG sleeve (Bill Bruford, if you must know) and I’ve never owned the cover, so I don’t have your filing problem as I have an incomplete set of those wonderful covers. (Can I borrow yours?)

    Anyway, nice review of Side One. We have incipient autumn here. This morning is bright and crisp, just like the music. And that’s the point of ambient music, really, a canvas to project our fantasies and daydreams onto.

    PS. I think I like Side Two more than you, though no quibble with your description. I happen to very much enjoy music where nothing much happens very slowly.

    And thanks for the murmur-out.

    1. You’re more than welcome, you can always rely on me to murmur your praises. Did you re-purchase the Bill Bruford? is it better than Ambient 3? and no, sorry, I’ve learned the hard way not to loan LPs to anyone, no matter how much I like them.

      1. Yep. Finally got the Bruford last year. Still looking for a beaten up Laraji in a pristine cover though!

        Look, sorry if I sounded mealy mouthed with ‘murmur-out’. I was trying to be funny – an ambient version of a ‘shout-out’ – but I hadn’t had my morning coffee. God knows I welcome the support. Stats on recent articles have been so low I’ve been considering packing in regular posting. And I don’t loan records either. Another bad joke. Sigh.

      2. No offence taken at all – I got what you meant entirely and replied in kind! The world has you Aussies all wrong, you’re a sensitive race, I know this because I saw Priscilla: Queen of the Desert for the first time last night.

        Whatever you do, don’t pack in. Seriously, I’d get cross with you.

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