The relationship between Brian Eno and Warp has seen Eno back on form – at least as far as the record-buying public sees it anyway. Eno has always existed in a variety of roles, and his music does that too. But certainly his music on the Warp label seems a good fit – and has seen him unload a small-handful of quality releases in just a couple of years.
His latest is his overt – conscious – return to ambient music, the genre he pioneered nearly 40 years ago now. So you can place it alongside the Music For Airports and Music For Films and of course Discreet Music. Throw in his mid-1980s return to that form, where he stretched it out for the CD-age, Thursday Afternoon, and you have all the sonic touchstones you need. Eno is, after all, a name (or surname) that labels its own genre – he can run off and collaborate with whoever, produce U2 and Coldplay, reconnect with old chums like David Byrne but an Eno solo album is something people buy into knowing – on some level – what they are going to get.
But LUX works as an update to his sonic strategies that first mingled on the early (unfunny) ambient albums. Tones that were left to gather, scatter and evaporate into the room.
But LUX works – also – as a tie in to many of Eno’s post-music projects. This album probably has less in common with his other albums, more in common with his 77 Million Paintings installation, his soundtrack work, computer projects – including theme music and recent apps.
It’s another window into Eno’s sound world – and it might be the same old view or a whole new way of seeing and hearing. Part of the brilliance (and cheekiness) of his ambient albums has always been that the audience brings as much of their experience/expectation to the project – so in a (certain) way it is your fault as much as it is Brian’s if you don’t enjoy the album.
I’ve played LUX a bunch of times and I love it for its long, lope of non-music (Eno ever the non-musician). It might be paint-drying stuff for some people but for me it’s been an escape, late this year (and probably in future years) from all the truly awful music that invades my letterbox. It’s been a beacon of calm – gently gracing the house with its (non-) presence.
Four tracks morph and merge and roll on from one another – I’ve only ever noticed the split if I’ve been staring at the CD counter, or watching my iPod for the change between tracks. (And hey, if you have 75 minutes spare to stare off into space, noticing only when the tracks split from one another and Lux 2 replaces Lux1, as the four tracks are just number-titles, then Eno has created the perfect soundtrack for that).
I like where Eno has been. I like where he’s at. I like where he’s heading (and there’s a certain lack of being sure where that exactly is – or was – in all three cases). And though his previous Warp albums have been worthwhile, occasionally brilliant, this is the one that will sit alongside his classic releases; the one I’ll return to. Heck, there’ll even be times when I don’t even know I’m listening to it – and, yeah, I like that about LUX. I do.