Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea
Dominic Valvona 15/11/2010
Brian Eno returns to the record label fold with his latest collaborative suite of soundscape compositions; choosing the astute home of experimental music, Warp, he releases this 15-track series of polygenesis traversing improvised sound-pieces to an anticipating audience.
This oblique strategies card-shuffling led album, steers the music into both efficacious and erudite directions, with incipient ideas seen through to, mostly, concomitant and starkly dreamlike encapsulating results. Eno gives us suggestive titles to each of these empirical conceived vistas; nudging the listeners with descriptive monikers such as, 'Dust Shuffle' and 'Slow Ice, Old Moon', which usually include passing relationships to mineral elements and natural phenomenon.
Essentially ambient in tone and textures, there are occasional bouts of cyclonic barracking beats, as on 'Horse'; Faust inspired climatic breakouts of post-punk on '2 Forms Of Anger', and oscillating accelerated alarm on 'Flint March'. There are also plenty of resonating diaphanous moments scattered throughout: the tender ethereal evocative piano and melody on 'Emerald And Lime' is hauntingly ambrosial, whilst the searing textures on 'Written, Forgotten' are beguiling and evanescent.
If there is any sort of underlying theme, then its one of ominous toned exploration and discovery, as the trio navigate some eerie and otherworldly spaces. There's an abundance of lunar landscape evocative atmospherics and unsettling shadowy shifting landscapes that induce a wary sense of mystique.
Long-term collaborators Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams both bring their own unique styles of experimental and creative playing to the record. Hopkins pulchritude like ivory twinkling radiates a form of searching on both the complimented compositions of 'Emerald And Lime' and 'Emerald And Stone , and proves delicately sumptuous in his work on the closing tome 'Late Anthropocene'. Abrahams on the other hand tampers, taps, strokes and stretches his electric guitar through numerous effects manipulation; creeping into Michael Karoli proto swathes of cosmic pained expression on the track 'Complex Heaven', and caressing subtle string damping and fluttering techniques on the title track.
Conceived as both the music of a near-future re-imagined, and as a leap into the unknown; Small Craft On A Milk Sea unavoidably sounds familiar, with its fleeting redolent moments of Richard James - the fellow Warp label star - Matthew Herbert - especially his One series of albums - and even Eno's own back catalogue. In a recent interview with Jarvis Cocker on 6Music, Eno described the process and ideas behind the album, envisaging the creation of musical genres that never existed before, and with the strangely Indonesian-Tango-Espionage mash-up of 'Bone Jump' you start to understand what he means - incidentally Eno himself describes this track as “unwelcome jazz”.
Not so much a collection of songs, but more an assiduous developing and pliable compositional collage, meant to arouse personal recollections and visual stimulus in the listener.
Eno and his musical partners produce, maybe, just a glimpse of the times to come, though falling short in some ways of creating something wholly original. Nevertheless they deliver an accomplished reverential album of journeys through imagined scenic escapism, to pervading unsettling rushes through alien panoramas.