Brian Eno’s first foray into ambient music is both pretentious and half-assed, making Discreet Music one of his worst. Pretentious, because ambient music need not be background music (ie. he instructs us in the liner notes to listen “to the piece at comparatively low levels, even to the extent that it frequently falls below the threshold of audibility“); indeed, the best ambient music tends to be when it’s (inter)active, though most makers seem fine with pretending otherwise. Half-assed because the second side exists at all – butchering one of the greatest and well-known melodies known to man through mathematical equations (the first section, “Fullness of Wind,” is the best/worst of them because it constantly teases you into thinking that it’ll play out the superb melody of the original). Conductor Gavin Bryars might’ve been the worst thing to happen to the Obscure label, but more on that some other time.
If this were released today, no one would bat an eyelash. The backstory, where Brian Eno details how he serendipitously stumbled upon the idea, as detailed in the liner notes, is the best thing about this album. Proceed straight to Ambient 1: Music for Airtports and don’t look back.