The second set of Astrelwerks' Brian Eno reissues, the "Ambient Works," marks the birth and high-water mark of that most mellow of genres. Every horrible new-age massage soundtrack, every rave's chillout room and every slowcore band worth their silence spun out of the sounds of these four discs. For those looking for the chilly underside of modern music, the set is as essential as it gets.
Eno, perhaps more famous for his work with Roxy Music and his bombastic U2 production work, slowed music down until song structure was all but impossible. The title track on Discreet Music holds nothing more than three or four gently cascading notes for a full 31 minutes. In certain moods, it's insufferable. But as a soundtrack to a rainy Sunday afternoon, when your attention is held elsewhere, it is sublime.
Even better, and even quieter, is Music for Airports. The opening track, "1/1," is as gorgeous and soft as mist. The album was designed to soothe nervous flyers before boarding planes, and it is difficult to imagine another song that could calm you with such effortless grace.
The other two albums in the "Ambient Works" series add new textures to the mix. As a four-disc set, this collection is as powerful as a Xanax-and-vodka cocktail: You will succumb before it's over.