Astralwerks continues its welcome Brian Eno reissue campaign with this batch of four CDs chronicling the ambient pioneer's so-called "soundtrack" works. Less celebrated and more obscure than his justifiably revered art-rock and ambient albums, Music for Films, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, and Thursday Afternoon nonetheless abound with deathlessly beautiful music and function as crucial pieces in the expansive, kaleidoscopic puzzle that is Eno's grand sonic experiment. He's much more than Ufuggin'2's producer, you know.

Music for Films (1976) features contributions from Robert Fripp, Fred Frith, John Cale, Phil Collins, and other ringers, but no guest player usurps the unmistakable Eno-osity of these 18 tracks. Most of them deserve to score scenes of pensive stasis, underwater flora and fauna, and establishing shots set in natural tableaux. This music will never accompany images of car chases or explosions, but it may fruitfully be used to soundtrack crustacean sex rituals.

Apollo (1983) resulted from an invitation offered by director Al Reinert to create audio for his film of the Apollo space missions. With assistance from brother Roger and Daniel Lanois, Eno rose to the occasion with a set of lunar ambient drifts, plangent guitar twangs (by Lanois), fathomless synth whorls, meditative sonar pulses, and profoundly poignant melodies (see "An Ending [Ascent]" and "Always Returning," arguably Eno's most moving pieces in a career larded with 'em).

Thursday Afternoon (1985) is 61 minutes of faint, simmering organ drone and tentative yet beguiling piano notes seemingly submerged in lavender-scented water. It is fantastically boring if you have a short attention span (hello, 93 percent of humanity), but incomparably gorgeous if you have the patience to soak in its tranquil, rippling pools of Satie-on-opiates bliss. Call it new age, call me a hippie, but this disc is balm for humans dealing with an irredeemably fucked-up world. I'll take Thursday Afternoon over the more ballyhooed Discreet Music (though that's essential, too).

More Music for Films (2005) is the only CD in this bunch I don't whole-heartedly recommend. Recorded in the late '70s, these 21 instrumental miniatures sound like rejects from the Another Green World sessions; perhaps they remained unreleased for good reasons. Somber, contemplative mood pieces comprise the bulk of More Music for Films, some of which literally sound like alternate takes of songs off Green World. They are composed in that trademark (E)gnomic manner that inspires profound ambivalence (no mean feat!). The sounds teeter on the balance beam between dreary tedium and ooh-ah prettiness. Okay, you do too need this one after all. Even at his most pedestrian, Eno offers oodles of subtle sensory joy. At his best, he is one of the most important musical figures of the last 35 years, even if Bono's number's in his celly. DAVE SEGAL

More info at www.enoshop.co.uk.

Support The Stranger

Sponsored
Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.