Eno's new ambient album beautiful contrast to 2016's more vocal "The Ship"
New Year’s Day release soothes the battered soul
2016 was a rough year for me (and many of you) as far as losing musical idols.
The list is too long and too sad to recount. The artists and poets the last year took are responsible for shaping me as a human being. They taught me it was okay to be weird and love myself for it, and thankfully their music is still here. They live in vinyl stacks and mix tapes in my living room, and I can commune with them without a Ouija board, it just takes a needle and wires to tap into their genius.
Luckily, not all of my music gods are dead.
Brian Eno released a new album, “Reflection” on New Year’s Day, and it’s been a balm to a wounded soul. His discography is legendary, his contributions to the technology of music and sound legion, and the roster of collaborators he has worked with seems to include everyone I’ve ever loved in music: Roxy Music, David Bowie, Genesis, Talking Heads, Coldplay, Devo, David Byrne, dozens of soundtracks, films, Avant Garde projects, and symphonies.
I’ve always liked him for his ambient works best, they speak to me on a nearly spiritual level. I love “Music for Airports,” “Apollo,” and especially “On Land,” which is, for me, the definition of haunting loneliness.
If you enjoy Eno’s ambient works, you’ll very much like “Reflection.” It’s one track, 54 minutes long. I’ve listened to the album for most of the day, and it’s put me into a weird headspace, to say the least.
It opens with ringing vibraphones in layers, soft bassy echoing tones, and gentle drones. It has the feeling of sinking into the ocean and watching the sunlight fade as you drop, or drifting through space, travelling thousands of miles, but still feeling like you’ve moved little in the incomprehensible vastness of the universe. It makes you feel small, in an important way.
I normally take the albums I review apart, and highlight the songs, discuss the cadence of the thing. How can you hope to do that with “Reflections”? I can’t say “There’s a bit at 14:23 I’m rather fond of.” I wouldn’t want you to skip ahead to it, you sort of need to listen to the whole thing to have any hope of understanding or enjoying it.
This album isn’t for everyone. As a matter of fact, it’s probably not something many would choose listen to.
If you enjoy meditation, the subtle ebb and flow of it might take you to some interesting places. If you like to have something to stimulate you while reading or studying, it’s something you can fall into while your mind is busy with words, numbers or complex concepts.
Happy New Year, Brian. I’m glad you’re still here.