We used to name the summers. We gave them titles like The Summer of Hammers. Humid and overgrown, we used to command the porch in the late-evening sun amid the mulberry and honeysuckle. Sentinels under a lavender orange sky, as still as the air that hung stagnantly around each hedge as they slowly intwined themselves around the fences.
Years and a continent apart I guarantee you that this melting Earth is not orbiting the Sun it is circling it like a drain. Walking back to the office from a lunch gone long, a gentlemen convinced me to feel the heat radiating from his head. There is no reason in this world, only steadily increasing fahrenheit.
I got the intern stoned and sent her home. The office has no ventilation. July’s brutal grasp gruesomely shifted into August’s calloused death grip and all I could do is sweat and wait. It was Friday. I locked the office and left for the coffee and record shops as is my programming.
I slid through the door of Pop Obscure on a stream of perspiration. I sipped slowly from my cup of five dollars and its complimentary ice. There’s a list in my mind (or somewhere in the back of my mind) of records and I hunt. During the Summer of Padres, I managed to pick up almost every Talking Heads album. In the interceding years, I hadn’t been able to find an original copy of Remain in Light to match the set . It was not my beautiful record, it was not in my beautiful house. Before the sweat on my palms could dry, I was holding it as water began to condense around the plastic sleeve. And the heat goes on, where the hand has been.
On the wall above, I found another album I had been longing to caress in just the same way. Nearly black, almost unnoticeable, hovering just at eye level, Brian Eno’s Discreet Music. Arguably an important record – a record that sits at the foundation of numerous others – Discreet Music is as subtle as the name implies.
On the liner notes to 1975’s Discreet Music, Eno writes that he had always seen himself as a programmer. That he preferred a system that “once set into operation, could create music with little or no intervention on [his] part.” Eno imagines music as systems, and his goal, with that record at least, is to allow the system to take over. Eno controls the input, and the settings on the filters. The result is a creation the program.
The notion extends beyond electronic production of music. He extrapolates the idea himself on the B-Side of Discreet Music. “In this case the ‘system’,” he writes, “is a group of performers with a set of instructions…” Those instructions are cut and paste adaptations of Pachelbel’s Canon at varying tempos. An orchestra filling the role of his circuitry.
In fact, its this idea that helped shape Remain in Light into the glorious, droning, irresistibly catchy record that it is. The number of frequencies is greatly expanded. A full band is remixed, overdubbed, and looped. The inputs of those frequencies extended even further, because in this case there’s not only Brian Eno, but the Talking Heads as well – each under the spell of a different set of influences. What emerges from this process is remarkably primitive and wildly futuristic. A revisionist history of musical development as indebted to Fela Kuti as it was to Donna Summer.
The receipt became transparent shortly after greeting my pocket. The ice in my coffee melted more quickly than I felt like drinking it, and I relieved the cup of most of its burden in the street drain. And the heat goes on. I’m a tumbler, I’m a government man. But then again, don’t worry about the government.