During the first ten years of the new century, Brian Eno has released some albums that come close to his classics of the seventies and eighties, for example DRAWN FROM LIFE, with Peter Schwalm, or the brilliant song cycle ANOTHER DAY ON EARTH. Now, the creator of ambient music has released his first solo album on Warp Records, specialists for experimental, electronic pop. And he is working with some soulmates, Leo Abrahams (guitar, laptop, weird sounds) and Jon Hopkins (piano, electronics, strange sounds).
Good companionship for a purely instrumental record that reaches far out - and starts almost too beautiful, with the ambient sugar of EMERALD AND LIME. But even this soft starter has some grainy elements of total emptiness in it - the picture of a silent sea springs to mind (a picture Eno has often recurred to in his songs). The following three soundscapes belong to the 1000 places you will have to go to before you die. COMPLEX HEAVEN, SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA and the driving, irresistible rhythms of FLINT MARCH contain everything you expect from great Eno pieces, a sense of wonder, and an ambivalent field of emotion. On FLINT MARCH, the elastic drums add to an exercise of nearly uninhibited joie de vivre (but even here, as repeated listening reveals, some dark forces are working in the background).
This 15-track journey then continues with some wild pieces, a quiet foreboding of danger, and rough passages with frenetic guitar playing: sometimes Eno loves to push sounds to the verge of falling apart. The listener is getting lost in a very interesting way - between child-like moods, disturbing fields of sound, apparitions of naked beauty. And, finally, after some upheaval and dancing on a razorblade, the quiet atmospheres of the beginning re-enter the scenery: WRITTEN, FORGOTTEN & LATE ANTHROPACENE explore a quality of peacefulness and yearning beyond kitsch and wrong happy endings by just touching a deep zone of human experience. In his excellent review (NYT), Jon Pareles even suggests that these two final tracks play out like desolate elegies.
This is definitely a record Eno-friendly minds and a lot of newcomers will return to again and again. SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA is so fresh, so full of wonder, so far away from being a repetition of any other Eno album. Of course, there are some spirits drifting: on COMPLEX HEAVEN Eno sounds like channeling his early piano treatments for Harold Budd. The first track, EMERALD AND LIME, has a kind of Roedelius flair. But, well, on this great work even the memories are inventive - playing tricks under a strangely coloured sky!