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Brian Eno - The Ship CD (album) cover


Brian Eno


Progressive Electronic

3.59 | 21 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Brian Eno's best album in years strikes a lopsided balance between his purely ambient abstractions and the more song-centered performances from his feather-boa'd youth, but it definitely leans far closer toward the minimalist end of his musical spectrum. Imagine a typical Eno pop song, slowed down to below 16 rpm and stretched out over 21-minutes in length, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

There's a dreamlike lack of clarity to the music, as if The Ship of the album's title (supposedly RMS Titanic, in her final agony) was running at quarter-speed through dense fog. Eno's artfully auto-tuned singing adds just the right touch of maritime angst, resembling the lonesome chantey of an old sea dog on the evening's last watch aboard a four-masted windjammer.

The long title track grows progressively more weird, as the dying ocean liner presumably settles to the North Atlantic sea floor. More accessible melodies then begin to emerge in the three-part "Fickle Sun", but the overall mood remains austere: gray music for an uncertain voyage, perfectly illustrated in the album's monochromatic artwork. So when the faux-brass section suddenly kicks in just beyond the 7:00 mark of "Fickle Sun, Part One" the effect is all the more powerful by contrast.

It's esoteric stuff, but strangely compelling: the poetry of ideas expressed as sound...a goofy description, I admit, but not when listening to Eno. And Part Two of "The Fickle Sun" is in fact an actual poem, recited by actor Peter Serafinowicz (the zombie roommate in the movie "Shaun of the Dead") over a gentle Satie-like solo piano phrase. Which then leads directly into Part Three, "I'm Set Free": an old Velvet Underground song, beautifully rendered into one of Eno's best vocal performances since the 1970s.

A final coda ("Away", once again with echoes of "Another Green World") is only available on Japanese editions of the album...sadly, because it offers an ideal epilogue to an already indelible experience. The whole package is quintessential Eno: subtle yet engaging, calm to the point of immobility but still able to stir the gray matter like nobody's business.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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