Monday 20 January 2020

Soothing sounds from the architect of cool

John Meagher

John Meagher

Album of the week

Brian Eno


(Warp Records)


By any reckoning, Brian Eno has had an intriguing career. For more than four decades he has, somehow, proved that it is possible to flit from esoteric, experimental music to a form that is enormously popular and commercial.

It's hard to think of a similarly regarded figure who has achieved this delicate balancing act. Somehow, no amount of production work with Coldplay or the massaging of Bono's ego in studio can detract from the fact that the former Roxy Music founder and Talking Heads producer is one cool dude.

The respect he is deservedly afforded stems from albums such as this, his solo debut for the now-seminal Warp label. Lux is a 75-minute, four-suite album that unfurls in delicate, languid fashion and proves to be an engaging, captivating experience.

It is an ambient work from a visionary master of the genre, and can be filed alongside similarly atmospheric albums from his prolific and highly influential late 1970s/early 1980s period, especially Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978), Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983) and the more obscure Thursday Afternoon (1985).

Lux is a meticulously realised exercise in minimalism, yet the soothingly beguiling sounds spliced together by Eno never feel strained. There's none of that trying-too-hard feeling that can be discerned among many of those inspired by Eno. And, remarkably, despite its origins as a soundtrack to an art installation in a Turin gallery, Lux doesn't feel deliberately abstruse. There's real warmth amid the organic instrumentation, which is largely built around keys, strings and found sounds. It's more accessible than Eno's most recent work -- Warp-released collaborations with such leftfield figures as Rick Holland, Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.

Yet, Eno believes all albums -- including this one -- are "historical blips" and reckons the music should be a more immersive experience for the listener. To that end, he has released an iPad app, Scape, which has myriad "tools" to allow the listener to tinker with the material as they choose. Some will no doubt be tickled with the notion of playing around with the man's ideas, but it's hard to imagine such a concept resonating beyond a small army of devotees.

In the meantime, Lux illustrates Eno's mastery of the studio and gives some indication as to why he has been such an in-demand producer (or sonic-architect, in Eno-speak) for so long.

Key tracks Lux 1; Lux 2

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