America is in the mouth of madness my friends. No sooner than pundits, experts, philosophers utter “this cannot get any worse,” President Trump keeps demonstrating it can. The album of the month belongs Brian Eno. ‘Reflection’ is an introspective ambient wordless mediation that provides space to catch your breath. Embrace the now. One day at a time. Sometimes that is all we can hope for.
by Brian Eno
Warp Records (2017)
In times of tumultuous political and social unrest, the arts provide the metaphoric weapon to combat oppression. President Trump thinks he’s Superman. Art provides the kryptonite to shackle his momentum. Eno’s album asks you to look within. Twenty plus albums and still fueled with ambition, the merit of a great artist. Refection is his best work in years. If you have lost your light due to anger and uncertainty then listen, regain, regroup and reflect.
The year was 2005. I awoke in hospital bed. Before I could even entertain the thought of what was happing, the pain abrasively introduced itself. The adrenaline had worn off. My body decided to throw a party and I was invited. My grandmother was waiting for me to emerge from my concussion induced slumber. She was crying, desperately trying to explain what happened while shouting at the nurse. Chaos. The lovely nurse came in with needle in hand. Hello morphine. Wow. Here was the assessment: A broken collar bone that pierced through my skin, 14 stiches in my head, two or three cracked ribs, and bruised lung. Had my car accident been an album Pitchfork would have rated it a 9.0. Spectecular. The scariest part was the broken bits of glass on the left side of my face, courtesy of the impact of my head going through drivers windshield. Bits of glass claimed sanctuary in my left ear. My hearing was compromised. As a music lover I was terrified. My drug is music and I couldn’t get my fix.
After inquiring about my brother, my main concern was my hearing. The doctor and my grandma were bemused at such question considering the severity of aliments. Two days later he delivered the verdict: no headphones for a while and musical choices to be kept on the side of quiet. I knew exactly who I was going to retrieve from my collection. Brian Eno. The man that coined, introduced and defined ambient music. I describe his music in this manner. There is something comforting about hearing music that only I know is there. I felt a greater kinship with his work when I learned he had developed his ideas for musical direction as he recovered from an accident.
Studies show ambience music can calm, sooth, and aid in healing. It helps ease insomnia and anxiety. As I healed, his music was as vital as the pain medications. Apart from those benefits, I can also attest to another reward. People ask me how can you enjoy so many different types of music, loving and appreciating them equally? Here is my little secret. Every time I jump from genres, I pull out Eno’s records. It is one of the main reasons that explains the diverse selections in my collection. Eno’s records are monoliths for audiophiles. His music unlocks doors that lead to rooms full of music you never knew existed. He expands your musical palette.
The man makes music that can be simultaneously enjoyed or ignored.
Eno’s production resume is staggering. His services have been requested from Bowie, U2, Coldplay, just to name a few. As a performer he was an original member of the wonderfully superficial glam rock band known as Roxy Music. He pursed a solo career as he had no interest in commercial success. Forgoing commerce for substance. His solo albums range from the easily accessible pop experimentation: Here Come the Warm Jets (the album cover alone is a gem, Eno in full glam beast mode with a hairline holding on for dear life),to the advant-garde experimental minimalist soundtracks that were tailored for Airports and interstellar landscapes. His newest album follows the latter path. His genius is easily summed up. The man makes music that can be simultaneously enjoyed or ignored.
Reflection is one continuous track that clocks in under an hour. The album features familiar elements that Eno helped pioneer and introduce. Eno engages in sparse instrumentation that take their time to develop allowing the listener to get lost. The melodies gracefully disintegrate into the void. You can follow or retreat. Do not feel intimidated. The artist ethos from the very beginning has been to make music that can be heard but not necessary listened to. No commitment is needed, listen at your rhythm. Eno does not enjoy entertaining journalistic questions that pertain to explaining his albums or music. He wants the listener to absorb and project whatever sensation they feel. He feels that a explanation could manipulate or taint the experience. Personally, the record comes alive as the world sleeps. A hypnotic relief and welcomed surprised during these times.
Loudness and chaos is sound tracking our lives. We here loud music, we had a loud chaotic election, we have a loud chaotic President. Reporters and pundits engaging loud chaotic click bait segments that sensationalize and provide little substance. (God bless PBS, the only decent journalism left on television.) Loud is inescapable. For some listening to Reflection might be jolting experience. The quiet moments evoke introspection. The calmness might be too much. It is a journey worth exploring. Eno’s music echos the sentiment that is a theme in all my reviews. Sometimes you must to go through the darkness to find the light.