Monday, November 29, 2010

Brian Eno: Small Craft on a Milk Sea

Brian Eno (electronics, manipulations)
Small Craft On A Milk Sea (Warp Records)

Brian Eno, electronic music innovator and influential record producer (U2, Coldplay, Talking Heads, etc), recently resurfaced with a new album of ambient soundscapes entitled Small Craft on a Milk Sea (Warp Records), created in improvised collaboration with relative newcomers Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.

Eno has described his latest project as a kind of imaginary soundtrack. In fact, some of the tracks date from his work on the soundtrack for Peter Jackson's movie The Lovely Bones, which mostly resorted to recycling older Eno work. Of course, film music isn't a new concept for Eno. He has contributed music for a number of typically small, independent films. Those recordings can be heard on such albums as Apollo (1983) and Music for Films (1978).

So, what can one expect from Small Craft on a Milk Sea? Like most of Eno's ambient instrumental work, it focuses not so much on melody as it does on mood. Instead of obvious "arrangements" one gets intuitive textures. Sometimes the approach is languid and dreamy, and at other times frenetic and aggressive. If it weren't for the aggro tracks (such as "2 Kinds of Anger") you'd think you were listening to outtakes from his ambient masterpiece On Land (1982), in which sounds created by instruments blend seamlessly with environmental recordings.

The general sensation on Small Craft is one of disquieting expectation. Eno has always excelled at creating these kinds of eerie soundscapes with subliminal undercurrents, and his latest offering is fully loaded with foreboding. It isn't exactly a dark album — Eno eschews such obviousness — but the persistent sense of solitude has the potential to spook. At the very least, it's an immersive listening experience.

Included below are tracks from the album and a rather hilarious fake interview with Eno conducted by Eno in rock critic drag.

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