Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno

Something Else! NOVEMBER 28, 2015 - by Nick DeRiso

BRIAN ENO'S SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA HAS ONLY GOTTEN BETTER WITH TIME

He's got a name that sounds like the future. So, naturally, you expect Brian Eno to be ever changing, on the move, eyes continually fixed on the horizon. That's why I was starting to hate Small Craft On A Milk Sea.

Released in November 2010, the project opened with a crystalline piano line, echoing across a frozen ocean of cloud on Emerald and Lime, before this smeared keyboard ushered in a wandering guitar in Complex Heaven. For fans of Brian Eno's seminal snooze-rock triumph Ambient 1: Music For Airports, this was familiar ground. Maybe, too familiar.

There were perhaps those who celebrated the idea that Eno, after a brief, uncomfortable foray into standard musical structures (lyrics?!) on 2005's Another Day On Earth, had returned to textured, atmospheric weirdness. But, me? Well, I was ready to decry the sad regression of a once-perpetually hip - and, when you think about it, appropriately vampiric - egghead/electro-whiz. Sure, he used to be in Roxy Music, and screws around with big-time mainstreamers like U2. But he's still Brian Eno, right?

So, yeah, the title track, with its soft red wail, was welcome, indeed: The first indication that broader, bolder brush strokes were ahead. Flint March hurtled in next, boasting a polyrhythmic intensity that sounds like the first moments of a night-time air raid. Horse was all angles, with a sizzling electrical vibration at its centre. An album that seemed caught in a nostalgic dreamscape had come fully awake.

2 Forms Of Anger and then Bone Jump fused both of Brian Eno's principal impulses together: On the first, there was an open-ended time signature and a eerie, aerodynamic wash of keyboards; on the second, a tippy-toe private-eye theme that ran right up to its shockingly quiet end. Dust Shuffle and Palesonic were these shiny pieces of dance-track debris, coupled with some deliciously crunchy effects - dirty, reverb-soaked guitar riffs, and skidding keyboard drones.

Brian Eno then descended back into the metallic contemplation of Slow Ice, Old Moon, and his warm jets created a radiating glow once more. Lesser Heaven, continues what became a seven-song ambient finale of echoing vistas - these familiar sounds heard anew in the aftermath of a flurry of activity. The album's closer, Invisible, began with a rising rollercoaster's excited squeal, before becoming surrounded by scratchy uncertainty, and then dissolving into something that sounds like a new morning.

It's a rebirth narrative that was echoed across Small Craft On A Milk Sea. Brian Eno had come home again. But, thankfully, he was not staying for long.


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