The original 1996 UK edition of Brian Eno’s published diaries, essays, short stories and correspondence, ‘A Year With Swollen Appendices’, was in book only format, with no musical accompaniment – the French edition, ‘Une Année aux Appendices Gonflés’, appeared a couple of years on in 1998 and came replete with an exclusive CD accompaniment in the shape of ‘A Year’. I was fortunate enough to be in Paris in December of 1998 and chanced upon this while browsing through a branch of the wonderful FNAC chain and swiftly handed my Francs to the cashier and exited with this lovely item.
The CD runs for just under 30 minutes and its six tracks are unavailable on any other releases, as far as I’m aware.
- 26 Juillet 1995: Ikebukuro/Swarowski Soup 8:00
- 25 Avril: Orchestral Marstall 3:29
- 29 Septembre: Cold Jazz 2 3:16
- 25 Avril: Mad Jazz Piano 3:37
- 4 Août: With Howie B 4:53
- 27 Septembre: Heat Beat 6:40
The dates refer to entries in the diary (from 1995) which has some more detail about the background for the pieces. For example:
25 April: “More stuff for Martsall – crickets and rumbles and New York thunder.”
26 July: “More Synthetic Forests for Swarowski; now mixed with ‘Ikebukuro’. Bit of a soup.”
4 August: “Howie B. turned up at the studio with all his gear (to my surprise – I’d just imagined a chat). Fortunate that he did, because we made some nice things together. His skills with a record deck are astonishing. We played for a couple of hours. It would be fun to say ‘This is an album – all we have to do is find it’.”
27 September: “Heat work in studio. Made a very strong new piece: harsh, tight snare snapping through thick, dangerous, overhead-cable drone. Asymetric, chromatic, clanging motif with ungainly movement (‘Unwelcome Jazz’ starting to pay off) over top. But the film is dodgy – the male-bonding scene makes me feel a bit ill.”
“Music: ‘Cold Jazz for Heat’, ‘Heat Beat’
29 September: “In early to work on Cold Jazz 2 and 3 and then a little on Bliss… …Rushing in to Lin and James to get them to listen to Cold Jazz 2. Nice to have kind ears so close.”
My own take on the pieces… As you’ll no doubt glean from its title, the first track is largely built upon the earlier ‘Ikebukuro’ from 1992’s ‘Shutov Assembly’ album, with another layer of instrumentation on top. Track 2, ‘Orchestral Marstall’, is largely keyboard only, with more emphasis on regular, if minor key, melody as opposed to ambient sounds. Track 3, ‘Heat Beat’ bears similarities to ‘Iced World’, which appears on 1997’s ‘The Drop’ (and earlier as a hidden track on 1995’s ‘Spinner’ (with Jah Wobble) – definitely a cousin, though this take is less ‘iced’ and has a sea-sick fairground organ style manic jazz solo keyboard run making an intrusive appearance. Track 4, ‘Mad Jazz Piano’, bears similarities with the style to be found on ‘Cornered’ and ‘Rayonism’ from 1997’s ‘The Drop’, in its mix of mechanical, dissonant piano sequencing, sparse snare-drum rolls and beats. Not sure it works in comparison though, its more like a Duracell bunny version of a Lalo Schifrin ‘Dirty Harry’ chase scene. Track 5, the collaboration with Howie B is pretty enough, but doesn’t develop anywhere. Finally, track 6, ‘Cold Jazz 2’, is less obviously related to any other pieces stylistically – strong mechanical beat, low-synth drone throughout, occasional interjected atonal melodies – but again, drifts along without any real build.