Under Review: Brian Eno – Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Once you’ve done as much for modern music as Brian Eno has, you really don’t need to prove yourself anymore.  Your adoring public would be plenty content with your 40+ solo albums and countless productions and collaborations, not to mention your pioneering genre development.  Instead of resting on his ambient laurels, Eno has concocted yet another stunning album, Small Craft On A Milk Sea.  Once again joined by guitarist Leo Abrahams and keyboardist Jon Hopkins, Eno’s latest is a collection of instrumentals that came from a series of improvisational sessions.  Aiming to create an atmosphere akin to a film score, the trio developed Small Craft’s intricate, shifting character.  Fans of Eno’s straight ambient work will find the opening tracks, which include the delicate “Complex Heaven,” to be instantly familiar-sounding.  With “Flint March,” though, Small Craft picks up and never lets go.  The passage is a whooping, skittering sonic ambush, with competing rhythms and synth washes that ebb underneath the itchy beat.  The equally jittery “Horse” follows, and the deceptive and thrilling “2 Forms Of Anger” completes one of Small Craft’s most brilliant movements.

Small Craft’s second half is more pensive, but no less impressive.  “Paleosonic” is primitively tropical, and the simple “Emerald And Stone” is lovely.  As with many of Eno’s productions, Small Craft’s beguiling mystery lies in forcing the listener to comprehend otherworldly sounds.  Despite the fact that only three men play on this album, trying to figure out what certain sounds are (or what instruments are churning them out) is frustratingly awe-inspiring.  Though Eno’s unique vocals and idiosyncratic lyrics might’ve helped some of these compositions become more than music for rooms, Small Craft On A Milk Sea remains a masterpiece from an artist who never aims for (or offers) anything less.

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~ by E. on November 3, 2010.

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