Recorded at Basing Street Studios, London and Conny's Studio outside Cologne, West Germany. No noise reduction systems were used on the original recordings.
Before and After Science is really a study of "studio composition" whereby recordings are created by deconstruction and elimination: tracks are recorded and assembled in layers, then selectively subtracted one after another, resulting in a composition and sound quite unlike that at the beginning of the process. Despite the album's pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream. Eno also experiments with his lyrics, choosing a sound-over-sense approach. When mixed with the music, these lyrics create a new sense or meaning, or the feeling of meaning, a concept inspired by abstract sound poet Kurt Schwitters (epitomized on the track "Kurt's Rejoinder," on which you actually hear samples from Schwitters' "Ursonate"). Before and After Science opens with two bouncy, upbeat cuts: "No One Receiving," featuring the offbeat rhythm machine of Percy Jones and Phil Collins (Eno regulars during this period), and "Backwater." Jones' analog delay bass dominates on the following "Kurt's Rejoinder," and he and Collins return on the mysterious instrumental "Energy Fools the Magician." The last five tracks (the entire second side of the album format) display a serenity unlike anything in the pop music field. These compositions take on an occasional pastoral quality, pensive and atmospheric. Cluster joins Eno on the mood-evoking "By This River," but the album's apex is the final cut, "Spider and I." With its misty emotional intensity, the song seems at once sad yet hopeful. The music on Before and After Science at times resembles Another Green World ("No One Receiving") and Here Come the Warm Jets ("King's Lead Hat") and ranks alongside both as the most essential Eno material.
This was Brian Eno's fourth and final solo album of the 70s with vocal tracks. In fact, as an artist, Eno would not return to the pop music format again, until his 1990 collaboration with John Cale, Wrong Way Up. When one listens to this, one can get a feel for why. The energetic, spastic nuggets that were most successfully mined on Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) had run their course. "King's Lead Hat" and "Backwater," with their punky aesthete and overtly non-sensical lyrics, sound rather forced and predictable by this time. They come off as little more than Eno regressing, when he had really shed this particular skin with his previous album, Another Green World. Still, "No One Receiving" and "Kurt's Rejoinder" make up some territory. The former acts much like "Sky Saw" from Another Green World, as the album opener with odd timbres and funky interplay. The latter features some superb, fearless fretless from Percy Jones, and the incidental croonings of Dadaist Kurt Schwitters.
The introspective pieces, by contrast, are uniformly, across-the-board brilliant. Each is like a kayak, in which the listener can paddle slowly alongside the promising vistas first set forth on Another Green World. "By This River," co-written and performed with Cluster's Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, has got to be one of Eno's most haunting pieces. Enigmatic, minimalist...a genuine spine-tingler. "Julie with" drifts along lazily, matched equally by the sleepy, mystery of "Energy Fools the Magician," "Through Hollow Lands," and "Spider and I." Perhaps the most uneven of Eno's vocal albums, and a clear step down coming from Another Green World, but top-notch nonetheless.
All Music Guide