Brian Eno Small Craft on a Milk Sea(Warp Records) Buy it from Insound
There’s nobody quite like Brian Eno. I don’t think anybody disputes this. That said, many have tried to emulate the man’s prolific musical output with varying levels of success. If we are to be honest, nothing reaches the heights this ever-important musician has scaled in the past, and he’d be hard pressed to reach them again himself. Small Craft on a Milk Sea might not be up there with the very best of Eno’s career, but it doesn’t pretend to be — and by this merit, it flits toward success.
For a man who released his first album at 25, defined the ambient music genre at 29, and has been redefining the creative process ever since, to remain impactful is no small feat. That said, Brian Eno never seemed one for small feats, did he?
Small Craft on a Milk Sea is decidedly in the vein of historical Eno work, but the details make the differences all the more clear. If you’re geared up for a repeat of an Ambient-series effort, you’ll be slightly surprised — but surely not confused by this output. With the average track clocking in at around three minutes long, the musical journey of a track is sometimes over only just as it starts. You’d imagine that would be jarring, but there’s something more here. These tracks never really aspire toward being more than a few minutes long, by and large, so to be surprised time and time again would be wide of the mark — though the first few listens may have dedicated Eno fans wondering what happened and why there wasn’t a little more development here or a little more attention given there.
This isn’t an album of minimalist qualities, either. At least, it’s no more minimalist than other soundscape-style albums Eno might rightly call his bread and butter. But when tracks just end with no more than a flourish — well, something seems a little off. Of course, a Brian Eno album that didn’t seem strange would be a strange thing itself, wouldn’t it?
But as incomplete as some of these tracks might feel, this is truly an album you have to consider as a whole and less as a collection of tracks driven by electronic twiddling. Like the dots of pointillism, Small Craft on a Milk Sea is best viewed from afar. Taken together, it is brilliant and breathtaking. It’s something unique, even among the Eno canon. Even when it seems a bit disjointed on close inspection, it’s when you take a step back that this album really comes into focus.7 November, 2010 - 20:48 — Matt Montgomery