Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea (4 stars)

Pioneer's debut Warp release with young collaborators a surprise and a success

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Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea

(Warp Records)

Like his cohort David Bowie, Eno knows a good collaborator when he sees one. His 70s solo albums are littered with names such as Robert Fripp, Phil Collins, Robert Wyatt and Harold Budd. For this, his first solo album since 2006’s Another Day On Earth (admittedly, he’s been busy with Coldplay, U2, and David Byrne albums) he recruits Leo Abrahams (young guitarist and co-writer to Ed Harcourt, Imogen Heap and other big hitters) and Jon Hopkins (young producer and behind-the-scenes guru to Coldplay, David Holmes and more) to shape things up. It’s a collaboration that works, and the results will likely be soundtracking most of BBC4’s 2011 output.

While some of these 15 tracks occupy familiar Eno territory – ‘Complex Heaven’ could be an outtake from Apollo, all reverb-drenched piano and trademark Yamaha DX7 tones, while ‘Emerald and Stone’ is classic 70s ambient Eno – some (‘Calcium Needles’, ‘Slow Ice, Old Moon’) don’t really progress beyond short sketches of sound design. More substantial are tracks applying treatments to collaborators’ raw material. ‘Horse’ wades right into Drukqs-era Aphex Twin territory, with a mess of abrasive sliced-and-diced guitar and a bassline lifted straight from his own ‘In Dark Trees’ from 1975, while ‘2 Forms of Anger’ sounds like nothing else he, or anyone else, has done, with something resembling dubstep giving way to guitars gatecrashing from a Big Black record.

These inventive tracks alongside ambient pieces might lack some unity, but combine to give this collection the sound of a release on Warp, a label whose early roster could double for an Eno fan convention. It feels like a good fit and it’s a good listen.

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea (pieces taken from the album) by Warp Records.

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