INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Tone Audio DECEMBER 2010 - by Jeff Dorgay
BRIAN ENO: SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA
What, you expected a Brian Eno record to have a title that wasn't at least moderately enigmatic? No stranger to ambient music, the musician/composer/producer/theorist's Small Craft On A Milk Sea may be his best atmospheric effort yet. Mixing in rhythmic residue left over from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, his 2008 collaboration with David Byrne, Eno pulls out all the stops and paints massive soundscapes
Connoisseurs of ambient music and Eno in particular will marvel at the sonic swaths planted here. The project's seeds trace back to his famous ambient series of recordings from the late '70s, most notably Ambient 1: Music For Airports and More Music For Films.
Designed to be experienced in chronological fashion, Small Craft On A Milk Sea launches with Emerald And Lime. Its gentle texture features a keyboard melody not completely unlike the Twin Peaks theme, the passage slowly bubbling but never brought to the boil. The aptly titled Complex Heaven follows with even more sparse keyboards and looping acoustic guitar intermeshed with haunting environmental and electronic sounds.
After the brief title track softens the mood, Flint March comes on with a raging techno beat and creepy vibe seemingly designed to bring listeners to attention just as they begin to chill out. Four subsequent pieces move in increasingly industrial directions that conjure the instrumental exercises of Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor. The groove changes again with Bone Jump, the mood becoming more sinister with great beats and ultra-deep bass riffs that will rattle your room if your speakers can go low enough. And that's just half of the record, which ends like it started, with the gentle textures of Late Anthropocene bringing it all full circle.
The album is available on CD or as a limited-edition boxed set that presents the music on two 180-gram LPs and high-resolution 24-bit/44Khz files. The deluxe bundle also includes six songs unavailable on the CD. And while the latter format sounds fantastic, fans that opt for the box set will be rewarded with dead-quiet pressings and breathtakingly gorgeous 24/44 files. Featuring Eno's artwork and printed with metallic ink and gloss varnish, the packaging is equally exquisite. Small Craft On A Milk Sea is as much a visual as an aural treat.
For those not requiring the packaging, the album can also be downloaded via the 24/44 wav format from Bleep.com for about twelve dollars. Even though these tracks use the same sample rate as the CD, the additional word length of the 24-bit files give the record's low-level passages much more texture than the 16-bit CD tracks. With the box set in short supply and costing around a hundred-and-twenty dollars, the high-resolution download represents the best bargain.