Album Review: Brian Eno – Small Craft on a Milk Sea (2010 LP)

For the last thirty-five years, Brian Eno has been an indisputably influential and iconic figure in a broad cross-section of musical genres. Small Craft on a Milk Sea is Eno’s 25th solo album; a collaboration with British electronica newcomer Jon Hopkins and guitarist Leo Abrahams, both of whom have previously worked with Eno. Throughout his illustrious career, Eno has worked with a list of talent that makes the eyes water, yet working with new talent is part of what keeps Eno on the edge of the contemporary.

Small Craft on a Milk Sea is a wholly instrumental album that brings together ambient piano, synthesizers, guitars and percussion with moments of dance-like electronica. The album is definitely a sum of its parts and benefits from being played in its entirety; losing coherency when broken up into merely a collection of individual, two-to-three minute long tracks. The beginning is something like gentle tide rolling into deeper complexity of sounds. The middle is populated by a succession of heavier tracks, driven by dance beats and awash with turbulent guitar. There is an building urgency to the beat, fractured by sci-fi sounds and shattered by sudden instances of ferociousness. There are moments that, for me, evoked a kind of Barbarella-like, 60’s sci-fi atmosphere. Eno is adept at creating order out of the chaos of sound, and Small Craft on a Milk Sea is very much like listening to organised noise. The album ends how it began, with the noise subsiding to an ambient ending of tranquil abstractions, with piano and strings returning with haunting, atmospheric waves of sound.

The record works perfectly as a complete picture, however listening through 40-odd minutes of ambient, instrumental electronica may not be to everyones tastes. Nonetheless, with Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Eno reminds us that contemporary music can have as many dimensions as it can have sounds, tones and moods. Eno is well known for his avant-garde musical creativity, and when he is able to create such amazingly multi-dimensional soundscapes as this, it is clear why.

Review Score: 8/10


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