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The Guardian SEPTEMBER 14, 2010 - by Sean Michaels
BRIAN ENO DESCRIBES NEW ALBUM AS ANTHOLOGY OF 'SOUND-ONLY' MOVIES
Experimental music pioneer lifts the lid on Small Craft On A Milk Sea, his Fellini-inspired collection of improvised collaborations.
Brian Eno has revealed details of his new album for Warp Records, describing the collaboration with Leo Abrahams and Jon Hopkins as a collection of "sound-only movies". Small Craft On A Milk Sea is apparently an album of improvised electronic music, the product of years of intermittent sessions.
"Mostly the pieces on this album resulted not from 'composition' in the classical sense, but from improvisation," Eno explained. "The improvisations are not attempts to end up with a song, but rather with a landscape, a feeling of a place and perhaps the suggestion of an event. In a sense they deliberately lack 'personality': there is no singer, no narrator, no guide as to what you ought to be feeling."
According to Hopkins, many of the album's "more melodic pieces" were born out of randomness. "Brian [asked] Leo and myself to write down a series of random chords, which he would then write on a white board, along with a number - the number of bars we should stay on that chord for," he said. "Brian would then stand and point to chords at random, not knowing how (and if) they will link to each other, and Leo and I would lay down parts in the corresponding keys for the written number of bars."
These are the first substantive comments on the music of Small Craft On A Milk Sea, due for release on November 15. Previously, Eno had only detailed the album's deluxe editions and paper stock. This week's description is rather more personal, with Eno recalling his experience of hearing Federico Fellini soundtracks before seeing the films. "Listening to [Nino Rota's music] I found I could imagine a whole movie in advance, and though it usually turned out to be nothing much like Fellini's version, it left me with the idea that a music which left itself in some way unresolved engaged the listener in a particularly creative way," he wrote.
Eno has tried to recapture this feeling with Abrahams and Hopkins, "gifted young player/composers whose work, like mine, is intimately connected to the possibilities and freedoms of electronic music". They created the album "over the last few years" - though Hopkins and Abraham have been making music together since they were teenagers.
"In the absence of [a] film," Eno said, soundtracks "[invite] you, the listener, to complete them in your mind. If you [haven't] even seen the film, the music [remains] evocative - like the lingering perfume of somebody who's just left a room you've entered." Small Craft On A Milk Sea, perhaps, will be the perfume of a film that never even was.