Artist: Brian Eno
LP: Panic of Looking
When Brian Eno decides to press record, only he knows whats going to happen. His constant search for new sounds and musical forms makes it hard for his fans to know what his next venture will sound like. Panic of Looking is not like that however, as it is a follow up EP to the July release Drums Between Bells. Like its predecessor, Eno collaborates with poet Rick Holland, who contributes the words.
My initial reaction to the album, after a casual listen, was one of Indifference. I’ve never particularly liked spoken word apart from Gil Scott Heron and I felt that Brian Eno’s contribution was minimal and dialed in. Holland’s use of repeating phrases felt boring on top of the ambient tracks which were reminiscent of things I had made using Eno’s iPhone app Bloom. It all felt like a dull version of Alan Wilder’s Recoil. Dreading that this might be the first of Eno’s work I disliked, I decided to put it down and come back.
After a few days I put my headphones and pressed play, In The Future started. The strongest and accessible song, it had stood out on my initial listen but not much more than a quick piqued interest. However when the opening chords and singing kicked in, I felt like I had walked in to The Church of Eno and pastor Rick Holland was preaching while accompanied by Eno on a synthesizer rather than an organ.
The gospel influence is prevalent and the addition of female vocals at the end really sells it. The 21st century sermon lyrically paints pictures of future cities being taken over by nature when humans have all but disappeared. Rejuvenated with hope, I praised the almighty Eno and moved on to the final five tracks of the Panic of Looking.
Unfortunately the next track, Not A Story, feels like a relapse. Rick Holland is omnipresent here. His poetry is introverted and his monotone delivery suits the bleak nature of words. Eno though seems to put little thought in the musical backing and seems to be more concerned with fiddling around with Rick’s vocal effects. I move on hoping it’s just the black sheep of the flock.
The title track, Panic of Looking, disperses any doubts I have with it’s ominous percussion laying the foundation for Holland’s poetry. Lines are repeated like dystopian mantras over rain like synth tones.
If These Footsteps is possibly the most musically interesting track. Eno shines here by using samples of the real world. Crowd noise is playing through the whole track while ship noises are manipulated into a pulsing rhythm. Too bad the track is only a minute long.
The last two tracks are very similar thematically. A Single Swallow in a Thermal Sky, and Try to Fit Its Motion, or is a solo effected electric piano that plays a simple descending line. It immediately brings to mind Eno’s work with Cluster. West Bay has a similar piano motif but adds a female voice reading a poem about a place by the sea.
In all Panic of Looking is a moody album. Its introverted lyrics and dark musical tones create a wall that’s hard to break through during one’s first listen. Thankfully multiple listens allows one to appreciate the genius behind the music and words. It might not be an album for everyone but it’s some of Eno’s best work in recent times.
By Spencer Carson