Brian Eno, founder of Roxy Music, notable Bowie collaborator, pioneer of ambient music. The lists of Eno’s accomplishments are endless after a career spanning 4 decades. The last release we saw from Brian Eno was back in 2012, with the album LUX. LUX was an ambient installation album, collaging together numerous pieces of his music that were installed into art galleries and airport terminals, harking back to his now classic Ambient 1: Music For Airports.
This year we see the first proper solo album from Eno since “LUX”, with The Ship. Taking inspiration from the First World War and the sinking of the Titanic, Eno has released a four-track album born from horrific stories, and “paranoia”. The albums opener and title track, spanning 21 minutes is built in typical Eno ambient style, with warm synth chords and beautiful strings. Like any ambient piece from Eno, the track is simple but sincere, unobtrusive but fascinating. That is until the five-minute mark, where the vocals come in. Lasting for almost the remainder of the track the vocals are bold, brooding and sharp, but not all that listenable.
Eno himself says his aim was to create a piece “which allowed voices to exist in their own space and time, like events in a landscape” and this is proven in the fact that for a lot of this track the vocals stand almost entirely on their own, with the exception of a few drones. However in my personal opinion, I was really enjoying the song up until this point and couldn’t really take the vocals seriously.
The next three tracks I assume are intended to be part of one overall piece, separated into three parts. The first part, Fickle Sun (i) is a 17 minute escapade, much darker than its predecessor it sounds like the soundtrack for an Alien Invasion. When the vocals come in on this track, it feels like a huge religious chant however once again, I did not enjoy the lyrics and would have preferred it to be one ambient piece.
Fickle Sun (ii) The Hour Is Thin is the shortest track on the album and probably my favourite. Lasting a short two and a half minutes, Eno delivers a spoken word segment that sounds like a narration to aftermath of the end of the world. Speaking, in hindsight, about the ecstatic reactions to the declaration of war, in which Eno has spoken about the “home by Christmas” attitude of 1914 Britain that inspired the record. The spoken word is accompanied only by a delicate piano line, which falls gently into the background, propping the words up just enough.
It’s a real shame that my favourite track on this album only lasted two minutes, but the albums closer Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free I honestly can’t stand. Covering the Velvet Underground’s original track. The five minute track is slow, boring and frankly Eno’s voice sounds so corny.
Overall, I was not impressed with The Ship at all. My personal preferences of Eno’s music don’t often past the classics in fairness, with 2010’s Small Craft On A Milk Sea being the last Eno album that truly grabbed me. For right now, I’ll hold on to that album, Ambient 1 and My Life In The Bush of Ghosts to tide me over on to the next Eno release, that I will still check out regardless.