MusicAngle OCTOBER 1, 2005 - by Michael Fremer


If you're expecting the young, daring Brian Eno to materialise after not making a vocal album for twenty-eight years, you'll be disappointed. This is the reflective, contemplative work of a mature artist more interested in setting the table than in hacking it up and eating off of the floor.

This opens the set with the most declarative statement, the one that reflects the shared communal feel suggested by the album title. Filled with analogue-sounding bleeps juxtaposed with colder electronica, the song signals a return to the familiar Eno of old but in a more reserved edition.

A Long Way Down puts the singer's voice through an electronic effect so severe there's almost nothing left of it save the bare suggestion of an outline. The song paints a picture of barren vistas much like Eno's ambient albums, with echoes of Another Green World. Again, the subdued track suggests the Eno of old, but doesn't quite deliver on the promise. It's more about the table setting than the meal.

The short A Long Way Down delivers on the promise of the title: a subterranean descent into a murky, cave-like musical environment. The soundscape is sparse, but cunningly populated with a mix of sonic colours to create an enveloping and suggestive sonic atmosphere. But it's a trifle. Next up is Going Unconscious, another murky blend as suggested by the title. It's anchored by an electronic timepiece, with lava-lamp-like gurgles and a Björk-ish female vocalist (calling her a singer isn't quite fair to singers). Again, it presents enveloping atmospherics, aided greatly by superb production, but there's not much cause to accompany the effect.

Ultimately, Another Day On Earth is more about what the Aborigines call the Dream Time than it is about a day on earth. Caught Between perfectly captures the twilight between sleep and waking and sounds the most like the Eno of Another Green World though it's far more subdued. Other titles, including How Many Worlds, Bottomliners, and Under, also suggest a shared twilight world between states of consciousness, but after a while the suggestion of sleep leads to it.

Just Another Day is yet another subdued, atmospheric, dreamy tune emerging from the musical fog. The song evokes the temporal, transitory nature of existence, seeking to calm and reassure the listener about the inevitability of passing through on the way to oblivion.

In the end, the listener is left feeling he or she has been listening to the soundtrack to an IMAX type documentary instead of to an album of music that rests on its own solid bedrock. Saving the day is the pure, transparent sound, thanks it part to DSD mastering, though this is a Redbook CD and not a hybrid SACD. Too bad. There's deep bass and a skillful mix adding to the sonic pleasure.

Eno proves yet again that he's the master of texture and intent and that he knows how and when to leave stuff out to create greater emotional impact. While the dreamy nature of the chosen subject matter makes the subdued production appropriate, in the end, the listener feels as if the music has floated by, leaving the listener stranded, bobbing on the water.

The album ends as abruptly and cruelly as a realist might imagine life itself ending. Though the ethereal soundscapes are pleasing, the listener isn't left with much to hold on to. Perhaps that's the point.