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Small Craft On A Milk Sea
Egg Head composer returns with cinematic new album
Peter Murphy, 03 Nov 2010
Brian Eno might think deeply about what he’s doing, but the music is anything but cerebral. Rather than some sonic version of conceptual art, a bzzzzt tinnitus of the brain, he produces holistic, freeform sounds that negate the mind and go straight to the nerves. Small wonder that certain physical and spiritual therapists cite his Music For Airports as the only sane alternative to the pan pipes, Keltic corn collections and cheesy Amazon sounds that proliferate in the new age meditative music market.
In the short piece he wrote to accompany Small Craft, his 25th solo work, Eno describes the unique magic of the soundtrack album: “I heard Nino Rota’s Fellini soundtracks often before I saw the films and in listening to them I found I could imagine a whole movie in advance: and though it usually turned out to be nothing much like Fellini’s version, it left me with the idea that a music which left itself in some way unresolved engaged the listener in a particularly creative way.”
So, film music is designed to evoke images, but if the listener bypasses the received celluloid visual, he gets to envision his own movie. This, when you think of it, is an end to which most composers aspire. The great three minute pop song or twenty minute symphony will suggest its own dramatis personae, its own narrative arc, its own location.
The fifteen pieces on Small Craft were composed through improvisation in collaboration with younger composers Hopkins and Abrahams. Some are exercises in stillness and mood (the Godspeed ominousness of the title tune, Zen tone poems like ‘Complex Heaven’). Some, like ‘Flint March’, or the click-hop ‘Horse’, are heavily rhythmic and quintessentially Warp, as though the trio had imagined an alternative score to the stage adaptation of Riddley Walker. Others, like ‘Emerald and Stone’, ‘Lesser Heaven’ or ‘Slow Ice, Old Moon’ are spacey and amniotic, and remind us that the score was one of the better aspects of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. Then there are maverick tracks like the storming ‘2 Forms of Anger’, which liquidises the barriers between visceral rock, ambient and dance forms.