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The Guardian OCTOBER 14, 2008 - by Ben Marshall
BRIAN ENO'S BLOOM: NEW ALBUM OR AMBIENT JOKE?
In 1893, the French pianist Eric Satie composed a piece of music titled Vexations, consisting of a short musical phrase that could, in theory, be repeated indefinitely. Its first performance lasted for a modest eighteen hours.
Satie, considered by many to be the grandfather of ambient music, was also a precursor to the theatre of the absurd, and Vexations is as much a meditation on boredom as it is an ambient masterwork. Satie imagined music that should be almost completely unobtrusive - "furniture music". Brian Eno later adopted the idea for his ambient albums, most notoriously, Music For Airports. When the album was finally played at an airport people complained of nameless, gnawing anxieties - not what one needs moments before boarding an aeroplane.
Now Eno, along with his collaborator Peter Chilvers, has taken Satie's notion of an endless composition to its logical conclusion with Bloom. Bloom could be regarded as an album in which you, the listener, are also the composer. It is a computer programme written for the iPhone and iPod Touch that presents users with a blank screen and a low rumbling bass. If you touch the screen notes tinkle to life alongside splashes of colour like ink drops on blotting paper. Leave the screen alone and after a few minutes it begins to paint its own abstract paintings and compose its own strange, interminable symphonies.
It is hypnotic and ludicrously addictive. A friend of mine spent six hours poking the screen of her iPhone, mesmerised by the colours and noises she was making. So should Bloom be regarded as a new Brian Eno album (because it certainly sounds like one), a clever but singularly pointless computer application, or a massive Satie-like joke at the expense of its listeners?