Saturday 16 December 2017

Music: Small Craft on a Milk Sea by Brian Eno ****


John Meagher

John Meagher

He may not have been physically present in Dublin's National Concert Hall on Tuesday night, but Brian Eno's genius was very much in evidence. Thanks to pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole and avant garde experimentalists Icebreaker, Eno's wonderful 1983 album, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, was performed in its entirety.

It was a profoundly moving experience, a reminder that the man who practically invented ambient music in the 70s has contributed far more to the canon than merely top-flight production jobs for U2, David Bowie, Talking Heads and Coldplay.

This is the ever-prolific Eno's 25th solo album and the first to be released by seminal UK electronica label Warp. It finds Eno collaborating with English compatriots guitarist Leo Abrahams and keyboardist Jon Hopkins and the trio have created an album that's as eclectic as anything Eno has lent his name to. It's practically impossible to pigeonhole and, in this case, that's certainly a good thing.

While his last album, 2008's Everything that Happens will Happen Today, offered an appealing, often highly commercial union with old buddy David Byrne, this one requires more work from the listener.

Of course, much of Eno's oeuvre has demanded time and effort from the fan -- 1975's masterful Another Green World being a case in point -- so long-term devotees are unlikely to be deterred by a collection that's wilfully esoteric.

Unsurprisingly, the gentle ambient minimalism that made Eno's name post-Roxy Music pops up here and there. And there's a cinematic grandeur to songs such as Complex Heaven and Slow Ice, Old Moon. Brian Eno has long been obsessed with the notion of soundtracking imaginary movies, and the beginning and end of this album are especially beautiful.

The central part of the album offers a very different sound, as Eno gives free reign to Abrahams and Hopkins to create discordant, aggressive music that, in places, may remind the listener of his solo debut, Here Come the Warm Jets. Horse and 2 Forms of Anger are especially visceral, and proof that Eno's capacity to surprise is undimmed by the passing years.

Burn it: Horse; Complex Heaven

Irish Independent

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