INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Arts Desk APRIL 27, 2016 - by Mark Kidel
BRIAN ENO: THE SHIP
Eno paints another masterpiece
Brian Eno has consistently explored the frontiers of music, bravely charting new territories of sound in a way that's never left his audience behind. He can bring his finely attuned ears and inspiration to the likes of Coldplay or U2 while, with a sensibility that embraces the unashamedly popular, also creating installations in art galleries or playing with Cagean random selection.
His new album, the first solo effort since Lux (2012) is refreshingly experimental, and yet rooted in the trademark soundscapes he painted electronically and which defined the ambient genre. Invention in the field of electronic music is open to baroque excess and simultaneously limited. The challenge is to make the man-made machinery sing from the heart, and express the humanity of the artist who has chosen to use it.
Perhaps because Eno draws on so many of his own passions, from Stockhausen and Cluster to vintage black gospel, from Sufi trance music to the music of The Prodigy, he uses the almost infinite range of his keyboards and software with grace. The Ship was designed as a 3-D sound installation, and the movement between sound channels, even though reduced to two sources for the album, creates a constantly shifting sense of space. Contrasting with these wide sound vistas, there are chillingly intimate vocals, sometimes distorted but never coldly robotic.
Fickle Sun, a piece in three movements, combines passages of serene beauty with moments that create a kind of discomfort. All the pieces on the album bear a connection, according to Eno, with the futile carnage of the First World War and the tragic sinking of the Titanic, both events which in some way undermined humanity's unbounded hope for progress. This is at times sombre music, even though there are intimations of bliss. Eno achieves exquisite beauty when shadowing vocals in the sonic foreground with ghostly presences, as if the dead, disembodied, were able to sing. Not since the classic and pioneering My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (1981), his collaboration with David Byrne, has Eno produced a work of such power and originality.