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Monday, April 17, 2017

Brian Eno - "The Ship" vinyl, LP, Album (Warp Records)

It seems I have spent my adult life with Brian Eno.  I have been buying albums from this artist over the years - some are masterpieces, some are OK, some are not-so-OK, and some that leave me just scratching my head.   In a nutshell, one of my favorite noisemakers.   Eno is not a genius, but he's smart, and his approach to throwing in the musical avant-garde ideas into the rock n' roll mix is brilliant.  Like any artist that has decades of work behind them, they falter here and there.  In my opinion, his recent works have regained his edge, which I thought he lost.  But alas, Eno is back!
"The Ship" is an exquisite almost ambient piece of music with vocals altered by electronics.  It's murky with the sound of a ship going down in the ocean.  It reminds me of Gavin Bryars' great piece of music "The Sinking of the Titanic" which in theory is relative to this work.  Eno was the first to record the Bryars piece for his Obscure record label.  What's interesting is that Eno mostly has made music for institutions, airports - but places that don't have a strong identity, and are neutral landscapes.  This album makes me think of location or place that is very specific in mind.  It's a ship that is sinking or lost.  You can't find this on a map, but one has a picture of it in their mind.   It's a lonely and sad album.   It ends up with some sort of light by his version of Lou Reed's (through his band The Velvet Underground) "I'm Set Free."  
The other key ingredient on the album is the use of strings.  I don't recall Eno ever using a string section, except for the b-side of his album "Discreet Music."   I would like to hear more recordings from him using orchestration. I think it's an area that he can explore more depth and sound textures.   On vinyl, it's a double album, and the essence of the work needs to be listened to from the beginning to the end.  There is a narrative that is in place, but not a story.  Just a mood that you need to experience in a format that doesn't jump around.  The emotional punch of the Lou Reed song is not strong if you don't play the other part of the recording first.  It is very much a composition.    Great.