INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Eye Weekly OCTOBER 27, 2010 - by Chris Bilton
BRIAN ENO WITH JON HOPKINS AND LEO ABRAHAMS: SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA
There can hardly be a more perfect pairing of musician and label than Brian Eno and Warp Records. Eno, the key collaborator on David Bowie's Berlin trilogy, legendary co-producer of U2's best records, ambient music pioneer, electronic innovator and all around super-influential art-rocker is something of a patron saint to the progressive English indie label. For over twenty years, Warp has been an incubator for cutting-edge electronic music (Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus) and experimental sound sculptors (Tyondai Braxton, Battles) while also dabbling in pop appeal (Born Ruffians, Jamie Lidell) - the very mix of sensibilities that can best be defined as "Eno-esque." So for Eno to sign with Warp for the release of his umpteenth album (don't even bother counting), Small Craft On A Milk Sea, it seemed like a good omen indeed.
For anyone playing catch-up with Eno's solo work, this pairing is particularly auspicious, as Small Craft (a collaboration with younger musicians Leo Abrahams and Jon Hopkins) is not only pre-eminent Eno, but a fine showcase of everything he does well. There are hauntingly catchy piano pieces (Emerald And Lime, Emerald And Stone) and totally absorbing ambient explorations (the eight-minute album closer Late Anthropocene and the elemental sonic rumble of Calcium Needles). Most appropriately for his new label, there are also a number of pulsing, beat-driven electro joints, like Horse and Paleosonic, as well as a tribal-drum and noise-guitar-led romp, 2 Forms Of Anger.
Beyond the exquisite experimentation on each of the tracks, Small Craft as a whole plays out with dramatic precision, easing the listener into the album's world with its simple melodies before peaking on an electro barrage and then riding out the final third on a slow-moving wave of dense ambience. Even Warp's most esteemed artists could learn something from Eno here.