Brian Eno Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno Small Craft On A Milk Sea
Brian Eno is in the enviable position of possessing a back catalogue so essential and pioneering that most people are willing to forgive the mostly innocuous albums he's been putting out every couple of years since the late '80s. His last solo album, 2005's underwhelming Another Day on Earth, went the way of most new David Bowie and Iggy Pop records, but 2008's collaboration with David Byrne, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, was a vital sign of new creative life from the two legends. And so the news of Brian Eno re-emerging on Warp had many people salivating for the great Eno return we've all been waiting for since, well, Eno-esque became a catchphrase for several generations of electronic musicians. Make no mistake: Small Craft on a Milk Sea is the strongest Eno record since 1983's Apollo. Like Apollo, Small Craft succeeds precisely because it is an intensely collaborative effort, though here Eno is working for the first time with up-and-coming talents Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams, both of whom have been referred to as "Eno-esque." And their input, especially that of Hopkins, is all over Small Craft, most notably on the beat arrangements that drive the more bristling tracks, such as "2 Forms of Anger" and "Horse," making up the album's mid-section. Buttressing the beat-oriented centre is the colder, more beautiful ambient soundtrack music touching upon mid-'80s Eno albums like Thursday Afternoon and the aforementioned Apollo. One could say that Eno has returned to form, in that he's made the wise decision to collaborate with the younger generation his ambient work has so influenced, and he still possesses a sharp ear for bold synthesizer music. But the darker rhythmic tracks that most people will hear as a new addition to the Eno sound are more markedly the territory of his Eno-esque collaborators. These are, of course, minor quibbles for an album that is otherwise largely commendable. (Warp)