By Will Wilkerson
Artist: Brian Eno
Release Date: January 1, 2017
The new year heralded a new ambient album from the artist who dreamed up the genre: Brian Eno. Eno’s career has spanned across the map, from playing glam rock with Roxy Music in the ’70s, to producing such artists as Talking Heads, U2, Devo, Slowdive, and many others. But his new album Reflection brings back the mood of his ambient golden age, the Music for Airports series in the late ’70s specifically, mixed with the self-awareness of modern times. And its apprehensiveness is what makes it deliciously dynamic.
With Eno’s description of the album and his music, he says, “I wanted also that this music would unfold differently all the time – ‘like sitting by a river’: it’s always the same river, but it’s always changing.”
His intention was to make “endless music, music that would be there as long as you wanted it to be.” This way, the non-rigidity of the work allows it to fit the listeners, rather than the listeners having to adjust themselves to meet the vibe.
The album consists of only one track, spanning exactly 54 minutes. A pleasant atmosphere of light flowing drones overlap each other, and in the first few minutes, its own rules are established. Vibrating and wind-driven bells insert themselves into the scenery, sometimes excited as if remembering an old idea, sometimes tapping in a new and fleeting layer. Whistles sung from some in-between of bird and human pop in, as do gentle sirens.
Taking the album into criticism, it has its flaws. Nothing in the piece stands out, makes the listener go, “Wow! Gee golly!” Nothing new or striking is introduced with the lot. But that’s what makes it unique. Because the album doesn’t obey the standard rules of music, it’s hard to point at it and call it lousy. With all music, and especially with ambient music, it’s really hit-or-miss usually. However, if you’re already predisposed to not like anything under the ambient umbrella that’s fine, but I genuinely hope that you’ll put the album on and give Reflection a chance, because I’m confident that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.