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Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea CD (album) cover

SMALL CRAFT ON A MILK SEA

Brian Eno

 

Progressive Electronic

3.85 | 65 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Brian Eno's latest offering is a pleasant but slightly curious addition to his impressive back catalogue. Although ostensibly a solo album, it's actually a straight 3 way collaboration with Leo Abrahams and Jon Hopkins - the pieces were edited down from group improvisation sessions - and while it's entirely instrumental, it doesn't quite fit in with Eno's ambient work.

The album starts out in familiar, drifting ambient territory that recalls Music for Films or, on the title track, his work with Fripp on Equatorial Stars. Just as the listener is is becoming accustomed to the atmospheric ambient sounds, however, guest percussionist Jez Wiles sets up a pounding tribal rhythm on Flint March and ushers in a series of rhthmically propulsive tracks dominated by guitar and drums (both real and artificial). These are the most contemporary sounding pieces on the album, evidence perhaps that Eno has recently been listening to other releases on the Warp label (home to Aphex Twin among many others), but rather than trying to get down with the kids Eno has put his own highly cerebral spin on things; uptempo they may be, but the pieces that make up the middle third of this album won't be filling any dancefloors in the near future. After Paleosonic the atmosphere calms down again, and the album gently wends its way to the only extended piece, Late Anthropocene, which drifts on for just over eight minutes and wouldn't sound out of place on Shutov Assembly.

Although it consists mostly of short tracks (the 14 pieces preceding Late Anthropocene fill up just over 40 minutes) this album should really be taken is as a single entity. The best reference points are perhaps his albums with Cluster or the Jah Wobble collaboration Spinner, and even the lowest key pieces here reward careful listening. Eno is no longer ahead of his time, or perhaps time has finally caught up with him, but at 62 he's as inquisitive and creative as ever. Equally recommended to newcomers and established fans.

Syzygy | 4/5 |

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