Musical review A force to be reckoned with

Brian Eno
Forever and ever

It is the 22nd solo album by the ambient pioneer, producer and recording artist and his first work based on vocal songs since Another Day On Earth in 2005.

It emphasizes environmental and geopolitical concerns, but also Eno’s musical progression, meditation and a questioning approach to a culture.

On the album, he is joined by his brother Roger Eno on piano and his daughter Darla Eno on vocals, with programming from Peter Chilvers, and Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams on post-production work, guitar and synth.

Overall the sound is surreal, poetic and dreamlike, mostly rhythmless. Vocal treatments include extensive pitch shifting, time stretching, Vocoder use, reverb room placements, and tonal processing, among many other techniques.

As a go-to producer for U2, Bowie, Talking Heads, Roxy Music and Coldplay, Eno’s strategy is to avoid clichés and react against the norm. The work has stood the test of time, as have his own free-thinking creations.

The album opens with Who Gives a Thought. Captivating, majestic and slow, it sets the scene for the album. Half sung, half meditation, Eno’s vocal timbre is rich and deep.

“Who thinks of the fireflies”, he sings.

We Let It In is a lament built around an arching bass, distant synth chords and offbeat vocals that morph into a cry for humanity and urgent ecological change. A mixture of tragedy and optimism. The overall intent is more than satisfied.

Similarly Icare or Blériot question the listener to take a new path. But Eno’s approach is rarely a political sermon or a call to direct action.

He said of the album in a recent statement, “Like everyone except, apparently, most of the world’s governments, I thought about our precarious and cramped future, and this music was born from those thoughts.

“Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I felt that…and the music was born out of those feelings. Those of us who share these feelings are aware that the world is changing at a lightning-fast pace and much of it is disappearing forever…hence the title of the album.

Garden of Stars evokes an almost apocalyptic musical landscape as the vocal recording winds around static radio drama combined with hits of synth atmospheres.

On the purely instrumental track, Inclusion, Marina Moore’s violin and viola playing unfolds around ancient mystical influences. Halfway through comes the climax, There Were Bells, a funeral lament for planet Earth. Melodically, it’s a triumph with upbeat bursts of high chords.

Eno premiered the track during a performance at the Acropolis in Athens in August 2021 on a day when a heatwave and wildfires besieged the city.

“I thought, we’re here at the cradle of Western civilization, probably witnessing the end,” he said at the time.

The album concludes with Making Gardens Out Of Silence In An Uncanny Valley, originally included in an audio installation in 2021 – Eno’s contribution to London’s Serpentine long-term interdisciplinary program dealing with the ongoing climate emergency , Back To Earth.

Using Bloom’s own generative software sounds, the track gently wraps around slow, ambient piano bells and heavily processed Vocoder vocal techniques. Drift, always indefinite. As if the music had blossomed and then faded to a fitting natural ending.

Eno continues to be a life force to be reckoned with, relevant and concerned. A contender for album of the year.

About Shirley A. Tamayo

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