I can never quite catch hold of The Pearl. I have listened to this album more times than I can safely count, and yet somehow each time I put it on I feel as if I have never heard it before. I’m not complaining; I’m in awe.
Most albums, if played enough, wear themselves into ruts in your mind the way an LP’s needle furrows out the groove it rides in. I could easy go the rest of my life without ever listening to most of the Led Zeppelin catalog, no thanks to radio airplay turning it all into a giant musical cinder. But The Pearl never seems to get old, in big part because I can never quite nail it down. I listen, I turn away, I listen again, and I feel a whole new album has emerged where the previous one was.
The last time I went record shopping—hole-in-the-wall record stores still proliferate in New York City, thank goodness—I walked out with an armload of film soundtracks: Le Grand Bleu, Taxi Driver, and a French SACD edition of Terminator 2 that I found in someone’s cut-out bin for $4. It’s not as if I have it in for actual albums from actual bands; there’s plenty of those to be talked about in time. It’s just that film soundtracks seize my attention in a way that most “regular “ albums don’t, and in a way can’t. They’re not just things unto themselves, but part of something larger that demands one’s full attention.
In most cases the film soundtracks I love are for films I know, but Music for Films is the exact opposite, and all the more fascinating for it. It’s a compilation of film music where the music preceded the films: Eno created the music in 1976, and then sent copies of a limited edition of the album to filmmakers so they could consider using it in their movies. In time, some of the music ended up in films as diverse as John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and Derek Jarman’s Jubilee. Then again, Eno composed the classic Windows 95 startup and shutdown themes, so I’m used to him popping up in places where his name wouldn’t normally appear.