INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Arts Desk JANUARY 14, 2017 - by Mark Kidel
BRIAN ENO: REFLECTION
Slow-motion cascades of morphing tone
Eno pioneered ambient music way back in the 1970s, in collaborations with Robert Fripp, Jon Hassell, Harold Budd, and on his own label. His new album continues this adventure in search of stillness, at a time when we are more than ever shaped by muddled layers of high-speed narratives, fuelled by instant communication and hell-bent on denying the presence of the here and now.
Like Xenakis, the avant-garde composer of the last century, who used mathematical formulae and discourse as a shield for deeply emotional music, Eno's algorithm-generated slow-motion cascades of morphing tone are anything but abstract. Although there isn't a trace of Eno's passion for African-American gospel in this serene and floating music, it's just as connected with a sense of awe as the more explicit shouts and returning climaxes of black church music.
This is music which seductively draws an over-heated consciousness into the calm reflection of the album's title: an ocean of bell- and gong-like sounds of different registers, high and low, accompanied by pervasive drones that lull the attention into a kind of trance. With music that leaves behind any narrative reference, time stops. A succession of present moments flow past, calling to mind the river that the pre-Socratic sage Heraclitus described as in constant flux, and yet always the same. As with the slow meditative alaap that meander towards the main subject in an Indian raga, tones are gently pulled apart: not coldly dissected but explored with an empathy that reveals their inner secrets.
There is an app version of the CD that's programmed to endlessly reconfigure the drifting sounds, and mirror a universe in constant transformation, and yet paradoxically, in focused stillness. This is soul music, a healing balm for a time of revved-up experience and instant gratification.