Friday, December 16, 2022

How to sound like Brian Eno / Daniel Lanois circa 1980

Years ago I made some notes on studio gear used by Brian Eno for his late 1970s productions, in particular the albums in the Ambient series. A recent social media discussion encouraged me to compile and update this information.

In particular, there has been a long-standing fascination with the sound of the album Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, released in 1980 on Editions EG. This beautiful recording features the minimalist piano of Harold Budd, but is co-credited to Brian Eno, in respect of his production contributions. Budd plays piano, both acoustic and electric. Alongside this solo instrument  are sounds from synths and other devices that have never, to my knowledge, been identified. According to Budd, a Yamaha DX7 and Casio CT-200 were used on The Pearl (released 1984), but these keyboards were not available in 1979 [Prendergast 1986].

The remainder of this article will focus attention on the signal chain used to create such a lush sonic environments from solo piano. This article will break down the equipment used at that time, along with today's alternatives.