INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
All About Jazz NOVEMBER 30, 2010 - by Nick DeRiso
BRIAN ENO: SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA
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.
Eno's new album opens with a crystalline piano line, echoing across a frozen ocean of cloud on Emerald And Lime, before this smeared keyboard ushers in a wandering guitar in Complex Heaven. For fans of Eno's seminal snooze-rock triumph Ambient 1: Music For Airports, this is familiar ground.
Maybe, too familiar.
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 are ahead. Flint March hurtles in next, boasting a polyrhythmic intensity that sounds like the first moments of a night-time air raid. Horse is all angles, with a sizzling electrical vibration at its center.
An album that seemed caught in a nostalgic dreamscape had come fully awake.
2 Forms Of Anger and then Bone Jump fuse both of Eno's principal impulses together - the quiet and the decidedly loud: On the first, there's an open-ended time signature and a eerie, aerodynamic wash of keyboards; on the second, a tippy-toe private-eye theme that runs right up to its shockingly quiet end.
Dust Shuffle and Palesonic are these shiny pieces of dance-track debris, coupled with some deliciously crunchy effects - dirty, reverb-soaked guitar riffs, and skidding keyboard drones.
Eno then descends back into the metallic contemplation of Slow Ice, Old Moon, and his warm jets create a radiating glow once more. Lesser Heaven, continues what becomes 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, begins 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's echoed across Small Craft On A Milk Sea.
Brian Eno has come home again. But, thankfully, he's not staying for long.