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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 4 September 2001
Many readers will know Brian Eno from his work with global superstars U2. There are other, parallel sides to Brian's musical work, and 'Discreet Music' is the first example of a particular strand of experimentation. First released in Britain in 1975 on his own Obscure Records label, it was an attempt to set up a system by which the music would evolve itself over time, with relatively little compositional or instrumental input from the composer, other than to set the muscal and technical parameters of the piece and pressing 'Go'....
'Discreet Music' is a piece lasting about 25 minutes. Brian takes two complementary musical phrases, played on a synthesiser, and loops them through his tape delay lines. The two fragments then come and go against each other indefinitely, creating new and unexpected juxtapositions, like cloud formations, before fading slowly away. If this simply idea sounds boring, listen to the music. One reviewer at the time said that it sounded like the dreamwaves of a sleeping computer. And this captures the gentle, harmonious quality of the music perfectly. As soothing as water lapping gently at the shore, 'Discreet Music' has apparently become a great favourite for mothers-to-be while in labour.
While I haven't had that experience, I can say that this music, which I first bought as a teenager in the 70s, has travelled the world with me and even now is never far from a stereo of some kind. Despite the knowing jokiness of the 'Obscure' label, this is a piece of conceptual music which succeeds first and foremost as music. The idea is great: the music even better. The second side of the album, also included on the CD release, takes a slightly different approach to the same idea, where the 'input' in this case is described as fragments from Pachelbel's 'Canon' (you'll know it) and arranged for a string quartet. A strict compositional framework gives interesting - and always listenable - results.
Brian Eno has gone on to explore what he termed 'self generating' music on a number of other releases, including, 'On Land', 'Thursday Afternoon' and 'Neroli', and latterly via software-generated pieces using the KOAN programme. Although each is different, there is a coherence of texture and stylistic tone which affirms the strength of the original idea.
And if it's chill-out music you're after, there is none better.....
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on 19 March 2007
It could be argued that there's not much to this record; the first piece comprises a pair of tape loops drifting in and out of phase, but actually contains as much silence as tones (technically, it's done on a single piece of tape, but it's in stereo after all, and sounds like a pair of instruments responding to each other). The second suite is a piece by Pachabel played by a string quartet, with each part played to a different timing, causing the instruments to drift in and out of phase with each other.

So, in actual fact, Brian Eno isn't really even on the recording, so why am I rating "his" work so highly? Simply put, the result of his grand design is a pair of pieces of extreme beauty. The sparse and minimalist sounds have both a fascination - in as much as I am always wanting to hear what comes next - and a quality of inducing extreme relaxation. Frankly, if I put this on at night, I'm likely to drift off to sleep before the first piece finishes; it's so minimal that I rarely get to hear it!

So what's the point of buying a record that you're not necessarily going to listen to? Well, besides the beauty of the sounds, it's not often that a non-chemical can create such profound feeling of relaxation - it's like yoga for the mind. Subsequently imitated, but never in my opinion bettered, this is so good that it makes it onto my Desert Island list.
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on 28 January 2001
This album has been, and remains, my all time favourite ambient recording. If you are looking for music to relax too, or need something to shift your thought patterns to another dimension, this is the album for you. You will never regret buying it.
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on 9 December 2011
I've dipped in and out of Brian Eno's work since the early-90s, and have been eyeing up "Discreet Music" for some time (having bought most of his mid- to late-70s work at some stage). Finally, the album came up as a really good offer in the Amazon MP3 store, so now I have it in my collection...

You can read elsewhere how Eno conceived the half-hour-long title track, but it's basically a continuation of the tape-loop work he had been doing for the previous couple of years alone and with Robert Fripp. "Discreet Music", basically, "is what it is" - a slowly drifting soundscape for synthesiser and tape-delay system. It's almost not meant to be listened TO, but left as a sonic background - it's up to you whether this interests you or not, but I like to leave the piece playing if I'm writing or otherwise working.

The three variations on Pachelbel's Canon for strings (arranged and conducted by Gavin Bryars) work less well as ambient pieces, but are still pleasant enough - especially "Fulness Of Wind", my favourite of the three.

In short, I think those wishing to investigate Eno's ambient albums should probably start with "Music For Airports" or "The Plateaux of Mirror", then come here if they like what they heard.
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VINE VOICEon 9 March 2006
A genius if ever there was one. Indeed such a genius I am even willing to forgive him for working with that pompous arse Bono, Eno has produced a body of work that just about blows out of the water every other artist …..ever. Now there are generally putting it in fairly simplistic terms two distinct areas of Eno, s work, the conventional (in relative terms) songs with lyrics and verses and chorus and stuff. Recommended examples of these include …err everything he has ever done actually. My favourites are “Before And After Science “and “Wrong Way Up” with John Cale but feel free to choose your own. Then there is his ambient work mainly released on his own “E.G.” label of which Discreet Music is arguably ( Some days I would argue vociferously it was another of his ambient works but mostly I would plump for this one) the zenith.
Whether it’s an apocryphal tale or not I don’t know , but apparently Eno conceived the idea for this album while convalescing in bed from an auto accident he put an album of classical music at very low volume by mistake and intrigued by the mixture of the music and the natural ambient sounds around him decided to produce music of his own that mirrored that effect. For the title track he used two complimentary musical phrases which he produced on a synthesiser then looped together so the two juxtaposed and interpenetrated each other , ebbing and flowing in a serene often nebulous piece lasting around 25 minutes, yet which could often seem to last much longer. As if time had somehow become infinitely elastic while the music was playing.
What was side two on the original vinyl version sees Eno take the fulsome irreducibly gorgeous Pachelbels “Canon Suite” set to a string quartet for an ever evolving , often fervid interpretation that occasionally sounds nothing at all like Pachelbels work but is always brought back to the original by the taut compositional structure of the piece.
Eno being Eno he has gone on to invigorate and embellish the medium using new technology, or new techniques to make more startling examples of what he calls “Self replicating music”. While I would heartily recommend investigating anything Eno has a hand in - yes even his work with bloody U2 though it pains me to admit it-i would strongly advocate anyone with an interest in ambient to hear “Discreet Music”, after all this is really where it all started , and it’s rarely been bettered.
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on 24 August 2013
The title track is something to enjoy, mostly in the background when you are doing something soothing and at half an hour it more than keeps you satisfied.

The real treats on the album though are the three variations of 'The Canon In D Major' By Johann Pachelbel. Each variation is given its own character and are a testament to the genius of Brian Eno.

A must have for any Eno or Ambient collection.
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on 16 August 2010
This is the first full-on Eno ambient disk--though the tag was not in use then. Eno had done somewhat similar feel things with Robert Fripp on No Pussyfooting, and on his own Another Green World, but this is in your face mood music--no question. The story is well-known of Eno in hospital recovering and unable to balance the sound on a record-player--Discreet--the operative word; the long 30-min title track chimes and reverberates like a sultry drunken afternoon--it defies analysis but it comes and goes like the tide. As ambient goes, it is primitive and pioneering but no less valuable. The companion pieces: Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel--the original is ofte used at weddings and one or two pop songs have been based on it--Rain and Tears comes to mind--a stately piece, but here is transformed by Gavin Bryars arrangement of the Cockpit Ensemble, together with Eno's treatments, which turn the original into a round, ie one instrument starts, later another... and make up what can only be called a fractal audio structure--though fractal was not a word in common use then--this is sophisticated stuff.
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on 14 February 2016
I had never heard of Brian Eno before. I was watching a documentary and his name was mentioned. Then he
appeared and I rather liked the descriptions of his music. So I decided to purchase this album. It is certainly very
different and a bit strange in parts otherwise enjoyable. I would recommend it if you are a fan.
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on 1 May 2013
One of our major musical talents. If you don't like ambient music then this is not for you. If you do this is essential- an historic original- apparently the first ambient album. There were obviously electronic peaceful and relaxed pieces before this but Eno seems to have developed, from this album on, a specific music type which I won't attempt to define here. This album therefore has a special place in the developement. Needless to say I enjoy it, and am very pleased I have caught up with it.
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on 29 March 2000
The beauty of Eno is his ability to deliver experiences beyond, but inextricably linked to the music he creates. This piece will take you wherever you want it to go: as the title suggest, play it discreetly and leave it to grow.
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