On Land is a mixture of synthesizer-based notes, nature/animal recordings, and a complex array of other sounds, most of which were unused, collected recordings from previous albums and the sessions that created them. As Eno explained, “… the making of records such as On Land involved feeding unheard tape into the mix, constant feeding and remixing, subtracting and “composting”. (…) “instrumentation shifted gradually through electro-mechanical and acoustic instruments towards non-instruments like pieces of chain and sticks and stones … I included not only recordings of rooks, frogs and insects, but also the complete body of my own earlier work”.
Despite the music’s dark leanings, it is in a sense still highly “ambient” in that the tracks tend to blend into each other and thus fulfill all of Eno’s original expectations of what the term means. Nevertheless, there is still room for the occasional surprise, such as Jon Hassell‘s recognisable effect-laden trumpet in “Shadow“. Eno, cognizant of the deeper aural qualities, said, “On the whole, On Land is quite a disturbed landscape: some of the undertones deliberately threaten the overtones, so you get the pastoral prettiness on top, but underneath there’s a dissonance that’s like an impending earthquake”.
“Tal Coat” refers to Pierre Louis Jacob (1905–1985), aka Pierre Tal-Coat, a proponent of the French form of abstract expressionism, Tachisme. This interest in painting is reflected in his statement that the album was “… an attempt to transpose into music something that you can do in painting: creating a figurative environment. At the beginning of the 20th century, the ambition of the great painters was to make paintings that were like music, which was then considered as the noblest art because it was abstract, not figurative. In contrast, my intention in On Land was to make music that was like figurative painting, but without referring to the history of music – more to a “history of listening””
“Lantern Marsh” was a place in East Anglia where he grew up. He remarks, “My experience of it derives not from having visited it (although I almost certainly did) but from having subsequently seen it on a map and imagining where and what it might be”.
“Leeks Hills“, Eno explains, “is a little wood (much smaller now than when I was young, and this not merely the effect of age and memory) which stands between Woodbridge and Melton. There isn’t a whole lot left of it now, but it used to be quite extensive. To find it you travel down the main road connecting Woodbridge and it lies to your left as you go down the hill”.