When Brian Eno releases an album, it gets a lot of press in small elite circles. This is because Brian Eno is one of those people that makes music for people who make music. While he can be a pop genius (he created the sound of the Talking Heads [woohoo], Coldplay [gag] and U2 [gross]), he is also known for his experimental ambient/instrumental soundscape albums. On this release, Eno collaborated with two young electronic musicians, Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams. He recorded their jam sessions for three years and then worked some sort of witchcraft on it to mix it into this album.
Small Craft on a Milk Sea is a complex auditory experience. It’s hard to describe. It’s inviting and off-putting at the same time. It’s like listening to Kanye West slowed down a hundred times. The record was put out on Warp Records, which is home to the bands !!! and Flying Lotus, and is used to putting out avant-garde stuff. Brian Eno is so well-respected that he could say he’s been recording cows shitting for four years and wants to put it out as a record and they’d be idiots to say no to him.
He just happens to be a very intelligent man. Though he may not be on the very cutting edge of creating “the sound of sound” anymore, he’s not very far behind — something that most people half his age can’t say anymore. Although there is electronic influence to the album and a few driving beats, no one will say that Eno’s gone dubstep.
Small Craft on a Milk Sea is an adventure in synesthesia, a romp in waveforms. It’s freaking weird. It makes you feel cool while you listen to it, like you were doing cocaine at a fancy party in slow motion with beautiful women and disco balls. It can shift gears and introduce some dissonant tone that introduces the same paranoid, nervous feeling that occurs when the blow wears off. One minute your eardrums might be getting a massage in a luscious green Japanese tea garden, the next you might have fallen into a deep blue nightmare, only to reemerge into a Viking battle (red and brown) or a sexy midnight encounter (black and yellow).
I would describe this album as being the closest thing to what you hear in your head after you’ve spent two days in the desert taking acid, talking to space aliens or people dressed as aliens. Half the album sounds like the music they play in the freak-out tent at music festivals. The other half consists of sounds with enough disturbances in their modality that they cause people to head for said tents. The music oscillates between the two poles quite frequently, never stopping for a moment to be tied down to any particular sound.
As a public service, I advise that no one who hasn’t smoked pot listen to this album. Also, if you haven’t lived an interesting enough life to have enough memories to flashback to while listening to this album, or time to really relax and let it massage your eardrums, this is probably one you can skip. If you want a good album to throw on while you’re stuck in traffic, on the bus or waiting for your plane to land, Brian Eno’s music will suck you in and move the time by quickly.