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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Eno’s Jacket

This is a household where DVDs are rented, on occasion, based not on the director, or actors, but the score’s composer. Usually it’s just to see the music in action, as it were — to witness, say, how Cliff Martinez’s contribution to the lesser thriller Wicker Park functioned (it abetted the stylized visuals, but certainly didn’t save the show), or whether David Holmes’ tracks in Code 46, an above-average dystopian sci-fi mystery, made sense in a future setting (they did). In both those cases, CDs of the music are (or, at least, were, as score CDs quickly go out of print) available commercially, but not every situation is as fortunate.

Brian Eno has, since the turn of the millennium, contributed full or partial scores, or pre-existing tracks, to at least a dozen movies (from Moulin Rouge! to Fear X) and television shows (Numbers), according to IMDB.com, the Internet Movie Database, and very little of that has been made available as a straight audio recording. So, if you want to hear his music for, say, The Jacket, the time-travel tale starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley, you pick up the DVD and witness Eno’s contribution in situ. Some DVDs offer, as a bonus feature, a score-only viewing, but The Jacket does not. So, you pop the DVD (released within weeks of Eno’s new pop album, Another Day on Earth) into your Netflix queue in order to check out the soundtrack cues.

The Jacket opens with a piano theme, reminiscent of Eno’s collaborations with Harold Budd, set against images of the first Gulf War. Familiar Eno found elements, such as Middle Eastern voices, come into play, and what follows fits well with the film’s overall sound design, which is often foregrounded to aid the director’s interest in disorientation. The Eno cues in the film range from hazy shades of digitalia to rhythmic loops that lend the scenes dramatic tension. At times, they mix particularly well with the external elements, such as in two scenes where the sound of approaching cars is lightly distorted. The Jacket soundtrack, by the way, includes a pre-existing track by Roger Eno (Brian’s brother), and another by one of its supporting actors, Brad Renfro. Also included, to cement the early-’90s period, is EMF’s pop hit “Unbelievable,” which Eno remixed for the Red Hot + Dance compilation. (Maybury’s best-known previous work is Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” music video, which he directed.)

Eno’s music doesn’t appear in films by chance. The Jacket was directed by John Maybury, whose Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon was scored by Eno contemporary Ryuichi Sakamoto. (In many ways, The Jacket resembles Jacob’s Ladder, another supernatural psych-ward drama, and one in which the visuals were based on Bacon paintings.) The Jacket was produced by Steven Soderbergh, who has favored electronic musicians in his scores, temp-tracked his directorial debut (sex, lies and videotape) to Eno songs, and included a segment of Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks in his Traffic. The same piece, “An Ending (Ascent),” later appeared in 28 Days Later, based on a screenplay by Alex Garland; The Beach, based on Garland’s novel of that name, featured original work by Eno. Beyond all of which, we can just wish and wait for Music for Films 3. View Eno’s IMDB.com filmography here.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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