One of the things I've always cherished about Brian Eno's 1982 album Ambient 4: On Land is the sense it gives of occupying a space that's somewhere and nowhere at once. Like Ambient 1: Music for Airports, its better known predecessor, On Land is part of Eno's classic sequence of four albums denoted with the word "ambient," signifying music intended to be as well suited to not-listening as to listening. (The other two volumes – Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, by Eno and Harold Budd, and Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, by Laraaji – are more instrument-focused and personable, to my mind, and thus considerably harder to relegate to a background condition.)
But where Music for Airports conjures (for me) a pleasant sensation of agreeable disembodiment, what I love most about On Land is its sense of place—in particular its evocation of places lost to time. Eno made the album by "composting" recordings, previously unused and otherwise: "…not only recordings of rooks, frogs and insects, but also the complete body of my own earlier work," he stated in a 1986 liner-note essay. What results is a sequence of weightless vignettes in which curious noises frequently surface through murmuring surfaces, like unidentifiable shapes floating in a sluggish, squelchy swamp.
That same sensation is what I'm responding to most in Lilliput, newly issued in digital formats by riverrun, the ambient alter ego of the British composer, songwriter, and performer Daniel Land. Throughout the 57:50 length of the version of Lilliput posted on Bandcamp, you get a feeling of weightlessness and disembodied drift. At the same time, though, there's always something bubbling underneath. The sensation reminds me quite a lot of what I love about Eno's On Land, which made Lilliput a compulsory purchase in mere minutes.
Looking at the notes on Land's website, I notice that he refers explicitly to Eno's mode of generative music. Elsewhere on the site, he cites that same curious notion of creating riverrun music by "composting" previous recordings:
The riverrun project is a series of heavily composted landscape recordings that I have been working on for nearly two decades in parallel to my songs. In the process of recording, I often become sidetracked by a new sound I have made - some peculiar, unrepeatable combination of instruments and effects - and spend a while exploring the ramifications of it. These experiments hardly ever end up on a "band" record, but over the course of nearly twenty years, I have build up a large library of sounds and textures. The riverrun pieces are what happens when I try to blend these little fragments together, a painstaking process that involves slowing down tapes, matching key signatures, and looking for interesting contrasts and juxtapositions.
One more thing about Lilliput: evidently the complete piece is 50 hours long. In addition to the "standard" 57:50 version of the piece now available on Bandcamp, Land is offering a limited-edition run of 50 CDs, each of which will feature an individual "slice" of the 50-hour whole. That, too, is an enchanting prospect: when my CD arrives, I'll have a unique, exclusive piece by Land. I'm eager to hear how it might differ from the version of Lilliput that drew me in so quickly in the first place.