PlayGround NOVEMBER 13, 2012 - by Javier Blánquez


Everyone has their own archetype of Brian Eno, because there are many Enos. Firstly, the one who handled the synthesizers in Roxy Music and refined glam pop during the early years on Virgin. Then there is Eno the producer (Bowie, Talking Heads), the theoretical Eno, the Eno who travels all over the first and fourth world, the Eno who simply throws out ideas - and who is paid very well for them - Eno the label founder (Obscure Music), and in recent years Eno the producer of colossal projects that he nevertheless manages to redirect for the better (Viva La Vida by Coldplay, or Achtung Baby by U2). For many, however, Eno is most Eno when he sounds the most discreet: the artist who brought nature to ambient music in three phases that still sound as great - and also as modest - as they did in the '70s. Lux is one of Brian Eno's major works - finally, after such a long time! - because it is the legitimate heir of such masterpieces as Discreet Music, Ambient 1: Music For Airports, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks and Music For Films.

This isn't a gratuitous claim. Lux has everything, exactly everything, that has made those albums beacons in the stormy history of ambient, a genre that is given as much to greatness as it is to irrelevance. Eno's technique when it comes to composing ambient, or as he has said, decorative music, was always very intuitive, almost improvisational. Lux particularly calls to mind Ambient 1: Music For Airports because it follows the same structure and technique almost exactly: smooth phrasing on the piano and a light layer of synths underneath, playing with a few notes that move slowly for almost twenty minutes in which nothing - and absolutely everything - happens. And it's no coincidence that the album's première, which didn't need to be played live, was in Terminal 2 of the international airport of Tokyo (Haneda) from November 2 to 6. There, it played as background music, finally making Eno's desire that this type of music be used for this exact purpose a reality.

Lux is amazingly similar to the spin-off of what can be considered one of his top five masterpieces, delayed by Eno for over thirty years. This feature, which could be a weakness - the lack of originality - is really its strength. Ambient was never born to be creative, but rather to be expansive, to accompany reading, thought, or trivial tasks, to give content and soul to dispensable "muzak". The four sections of Lux, which in total come to nearly eighty minutes, sound like a redoubled, expanded, maximised Music For Airports: if every second is a pleasure, the sum total of its extension becomes a bubble of peace and imperturbability in which nothing happens, and this is precisely what should happen. A single minute of Lux 1 contains the essence of the other seventy-eight minutes: Eno plays with barely four notes and a couple of accompanying tones, and these notes repeat with a deliciously spare quality, shining with the brightness indicated by the title. And so on until the end, in four different variations, and as many times as you need to listen to it.

The true reproduction of Lux might possibly be the airport of Haneda, tending towards eternity, a concept that Eno has worked with several times, following in the wake of the piece lasting centuries that was initiated by John Cage and which is currently performed in a church in Germany. The melody isn't as recognisable as that of Ambient 1: Music For Airports, much less the huge A-side of Discreet Music (which dilutes Johann Pachebel's Canon into an ocean at dusk), but since all of this has been said, it is a secondary issue - one more fitting for a mind deformed by the tricks of pop, because Lux offers something much more serious and valuable. His intuition, so long after the fact - and this time without the aid of collaborators, like with his last two albums on Warp - brings him brilliantly close to his goal, which is to approach what we might hear (who knows?) in what we call paradise.