"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Stool Pigeon NOVEMBER 29, 2010 - by John Doran
BRIAN ENO: SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA
Brian Eno wakes at dawn when rays from the sun penetrate his geodesic dome and activate his strontium-fluoride crystal mood chimes and Mayan perfume atomiser. He rises from his Arawak buffalo gut hammock and, once in his favourite Uchikake kimono, decorated with golden koi carp, slides down an antique Victorian fireman's pole straight into his liminal breakfast nook. Something is bothering him; something he can't quite put his finger on. He tries to realign his chakras by perusing some vintage 1930s negress amputee porn, and then by re-cataloguing his collection of prison shower block Polaroids taken by Michel Foucault. But nothing will set his mind at rest. He disconsolately pours his free range, artisan muesli into a bowl before sluicing it with tapir milk and just before he plunges his solid cedar Welsh love spoon (carved for him in Patagonia by a muscular hermaphrodite called Faustino VII) into his repast he notices something strange. There is a single raisin floating on the surface of the milk, like a tiny, shrivelled grape ship, slowly cutting through the meniscus of a white ocean. He pauses for a second and then plunges his spoon in and shovels the raisin into his mouth, begins chomping and says to himself absentmindedly: "Perhaps it's time I made a new album..."
Of course, one could never accuse Brian Eno, one of the most influential figures in popular and avant garde music, of being lazy. It may be five years since he released his last album, Another Day On Earth, but he certainly hasn't been taking it easy. Among many recent projects, the former Roxy Music electronics expert and ambient pioneer has curated his own festival in Brighton, organised live performances of his sumptuous Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks album and scored the film The Lovely Bones. In fact, five of the songs that were rejected from this OST by the film's producers form the backbone of this tantalising album, and the two musicians that he has collaborated with here, Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams, were part of his Pure Scenius festival on the South Coast. These two are ideal collaborators for Eno, given that they are both used to working in the fields of electronic composition and the writing of film scores. In this case, the music is for a film that doesn't exist... a field that Eno has excelled in, not least since releasing Music For Films in 1978. And even though these tracks are fully improvised attempts to construct musical landscapes, it is still surprisingly song based and at its most enjoyable when toying with heavy industrial dub and glitchy house rather than faded piano textures.
If Eno has been guilty of anything over the last fifteen years, it's certainly not of working with James, U2 or Coldplay - that's just his job as a producer. Rather it has been his retreat from engaging with modern production techniques, various world musics and underground dance culture as a means of not risking tarnishing his impressive legacy. This album represents a promising step in the right direction, rather than a complete rehabilitation to brilliance.