INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Wire JANUARY 2013 - by Sam Davies
BRIAN ENO: LUX
The first draft of this review was not positive. It was nothing but a series of alternative titles for Lux: Discreetly Wealthy Music; Music For Alain De Botton's Secular Temples; Music For The Room In Madame Tussaud's With Brian Eno's Statue In It. Etcetera. So what is Lux first of all: his first solo album proper since 2005's Another Day On Earth after two recent collaborations for Warp, it originates from a commission to compose for the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria in Turin. Over the course of an hour and a quarter, piano, keyboards, strings and vibraphone (perhaps?) slowly spell out lullaby phrases that enjamb, and never find a full stop. The light is limpid, the reverb softly extending into the infinite. Elements come and go; the accents shift; the season changes; the record ends.
The press release calls it ambitious, but also an advance on his now-canonical Ambient works from the 1970s, which doesn't quite scream ambition to me. It's a very well crafted Ambient record: it keeps its head down, it tints the air, it would probably turn itself off when done and leap back onto the shelf for you if it could. But to borrow an idea explored by Eno in a column for this very magazine about electric-era Miles Davis, how much of its value, or its pleasure, lies in the fact that it's by Eno? If it wasn't by Eno, would anyone care or listen to it?
I don't think so, or not for very long. The move from Lux (light) to Luxe as luxury is one Eno almost invites critics to make here, but it's a crucial one: made from a position of luxury (financial and artistic), this is music as a luxury, like a warm bath or spa treatment. And it underscores what it is in late Eno that may lead to him being seen not as an arch-exponent of the modern but as a discreet throwback: the way so much of his later work, from the blandishments of Coldplay to his own music, is consolatory; comfort food. Rather than shock, radicalise or even simply invite the listen to rethink, it murmurs complacently to itself, and anyone wandering by the installation, everything's OK. And Lux is OK, while it's on. But that's all. And that's a shame.