Brian Eno’s move to Warp Records is interesting, yet not especially surprising. It’s interesting because one could make a convincing argument that if it wasn’t for Brian Eno and his sonic experiments, Warp wouldn’t exist. Yet, electronia, experimental, and IDM(Intelligent Dance Music for the neophytes) have long been Warp’s specialty; the artists on Warp (specifically, Aphex Twin) have clearly influenced Eno. Eno’s career seems to be rounding out with a nice cyclicality. His newest record, Small Craft On A Milk Sea, explores some familiar ground, but per Eno’s specialty, is still trying to pioneer into the future.
However, this album is not Here Come The Warm Jets by any means. If you are new to the mastermind solo work, don’t let this be your first listen. It is deliberately hard to like; there are no lyrics and almost every instrument is computerized. However, that shouldn’t scare off the Eno faithful. Small Craft oscillates between broad, chamber-ish symphonies and haunting, minor ambience. Songs like the album opener “Emerald and Lime”, “Lesser Heaven” and “Emerald and Stone” would make nice background music for pensive reflection; “Horse” and “2 Forms of Anger” sound like the soundtrack of a slasher movie set in a haunted space station. But most of the songs (“Calcium Needles”, “Complex Heaven”, and “Bone Jump” in particular) are hard to classify; they’re dissonance, disconcerting melodies, and untraditional structure point toward something cerebral—albeit, something not immediately fun to listen to.
Small Craft isn’t as groundbreaking as some of Eno’s earlier work; however, if you’re open minded and enjoy experimental music, it’s worth a listen. I expect most of the music listening population to just let Radiohead spend some time with this record, figure out how to make it more catchy and interesting, and let these sounds stray from the experimental and take root in the mainstream. That’s pretty much what happened with Kid A, right?
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-½
Key Tracks: “Emerald and Lime”, “Lesser Heaven”, and “Calcium Needles”
Recommended if you like: Aphex Twin, Four Tet, and Squarepusher.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!