It used to be easier to pretend that an album was its own perfectly self-contained artifact. The great records certainly feel that way. But albums are more permeable than solid, their motivations, executions and inspirations informed by, and often stolen from, their peers and forbearers. It all sounds awfully formal, but it’s not. It’s the very nature of music — of art, even. The Six Degrees features examine the relationships between classic records and five other albums we’ve deemed related in some way. In some cases these connections are obvious, in others they are tenuous. But, most important to you, all of the records are highly, highly recommended.
Recorded and released in 1975, lapsed pop star Brian Eno's dreamy, drifting, and eternally enjoyable third studio album marks a pivotal point in his career: It lies between Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)'s guitar-driven experimental rock and the synth-centric ambient minimalism that would dominate Discreet Music (released later in '75), Music for Airports, and many other projects. Taking a more global perspective, you can also hear it as a celebration of the natural world's pastoral countrysides, oceans, and islands as refracted through the brave-new-world technologies and cybersystems that would increasingly dominate it. Another Green World is a remarkably organic work for what was essentially a scrapbook of sketches, studio experiments and oblique conceptual strategies. While five utterly gorgeous vocal tracks signify that this is still in many ways a pop album, lyrics such as "Over the nights and through the fires/ We went surging down the wires" works more as sound than as sense especially when sung in Eno's quaintly unassertive voice. Which isn't to say that "St. Elmo's Fire," "I'll Come Running," and "Golden Hour" are anything less than marvelous as sophisticated pop concoctions. Eno's support team includes former Velvet Underground violist John Cale alongside Genesis drummer Phil Collins and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. Although Eno had already been experimenting in looping, ambient minimalism with Fripp, Another Green World suggests an alternate musicology in which John Cage, Steve Reich, and Johann Pachelbel are pop stars in their own right. Using preparations, treatments, filters, distortions and drum machines, Eno mutates musical history before our very eyes, making the familiar strange and the strange familiar. On Another Green World he forces us, gently, to apprehend the sounds of our own green world in a new manner, with fresh ears.
Another Brown World
The near-mechanical Motorik beats that producer Michael Rother lent to Cluster's 1975 album Zuckerzeit were a major influence on Brian Eno's Another Green World. The reverse is the case a year later, in 1976, when the duo of Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius adapt their British friend and sometime collaborator's soft, gentler electronic pulsations to minimal melodies inspired by the natural beauty surrounding their home studio in the quaint German hamlet of Forst. Sowiesoso (Another Way Way) is wooden machine music in which analog keyboards (Hohner clavinet, Farfisa organ, Moogs, Arps, pianos) and the occasional guitar refract the sounds of the forest in a surprisingly organic manner. Even the birds heard in "Zum Wohl" (Cheers) turn out be minimalists, while the humans involved discover their chanting, groaning inner animal in "Umleitung" (Diversion). Kraftwerk's Autobahn can be discerned in the transcendent title track, while a more ethereal instrumental voice emerges from the forest in the gorgeously wistful closer, "In Ewigkeitz" (In Eternity).
Another Minimal World
The technical manipulations employed by self-characterized "tape machine junkie" Eno on Another Green World tracks like "The Big Ship" and "Zawinul/Lava" were inspired by American minimalist composer Steve Reich's work a decade earlier. In "Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain," Reich looped identical vocal phrases on a pair of Wollenseck tape recorders and recorded the results as they gradually slipped out of synch to create unexpectedly funky rhythmic patterns and wild new sounds. Contrary to Eno's ambient results, the Reich works are equally passionate and provocative. "Come Out" samples an account of police brutality during the Harlem riots of 1964 and "It's Gonna Rain" loops the words of Pentecostal preacher Brother Walter's sermon in San Francisco's Union Square shortly after the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis. The two other early Reich works, "Clapping Song" and "Piano Phase," were re-recorded in 1986 and 1987 for this album and mark the composer's attempt to translate his tape experiments to live performance.
Another Fab World
Brian Eno's favorite Roxy Music album was the first one he didn't play on. Stranded was something completely different for 1973. Contrary to American country-rock and British progressives like Yes and Genesis, songwriter-vocalist Bryan Ferry offered a remarkably witty and wise personal overview of post-Aquarian ennui. Still a few years shy of 30, Ferry contemplated the meaning(lessness) of life in self-centered epiphanies such as the two-part "Mother of Pearl" (his best song to date), the self-pitying "Song for Europe," and the frantically a-go-go title track. Eno's influence persists in the intermittent synthesizer interventions of his replacement, Eddie Jobson, who also played violin. Like Eno himself, Roxy Music was becoming a more conceptual rock band, although Ferry's critique of pure glamour was a far cry from his estranged former bandmate's new directions in experimental flash rock, i.e., Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).
Another Fusion World
Jazz-fusion supergroup Brand X's earliest rhythm section consisted of drummer Phil Collins (on holiday from Genesis) and bassist Percy Jones, whose appearance on the opening tracks of Eno's Another Green World helped establish that album's aura of enchanted fastidiousness. (Eno would later admit to reusing Collins and Jones's material "a million times" in other projects.) The Brand X lineup was filled out by former Atomic Rooster John Goodsall (guitar), Robin Lumley (keyboards) and Presto Heyman (percussion), who fly through the shifting time signatures and funk-inflected ADD melodies of their 1976 debut at breakneck speed. Their sprezzatura sound owes a certain debt to both the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, and has the feel of a quick-witted, intellectually challenging conversation among five hyperarticulate friends.
When Worlds Collide
How much did Brian Eno dig the tough-yet-lovable folk-rock delights of the Velvet Underground's third album? Enough that he claimed to have never owned a copy to insure against tiring of it. Released in 1969, The Velvet Underground stood in low-voltage, hippie-eschewing contrast to the Velvets' earlier, more aggro releases, and Eno appears to have referenced some of its quiet pleasures for his own sonic downshift of a third album. The sweet, simple guitars and questioning cool of "Candy Says" and the magnificently amoral "Pale Blue Eyes" inform Another Green World vocal tracks such as "I'll Come Running." Likewise, echoes of the extended art-rock composition "The Murder Mystery" can be heard in the overlapping vocals of Eno's "Sky Saw." And coincidentally or not, TVU was the group's first album without founding member John Cale, whose viola pops up thrice on Another Green World. One man gather what another band spills.