REFLECTION by Brian Eno
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Brian Eno hopefully needs little, if any, introduction. A name that will go down in music history immemorial, Eno has constantly been at the forefront of the amorphous ambient genre, with his pioneering works ANOTHER GREEN WORLD and, more directly, MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS. Even if the appeals of lengthy and pensive synthesizer musings fall on deaf ears, Eno’s magic touch can be seen across many artists from the ‘70s onward, whether it be his participation in Roxy Music, collaborations with David Bowie and David Byrne on “the Berlin trilogy” and MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS, respectively, or his production work for everyone from U2 to John Cale to James Blake. In short, every time a project with Eno’s name on it pops up, the music world perks up their ears. With REFLECTION, a sole, 54-minute generative piece (Eno sets up a series of sounds and motifs and lets the programming do what it will), Eno has turned in another competent ambient release that adds further depth to his commendable legacy, but doesn’t manage to achieve much else.
It must be stated that ambient music has an unavoidable caveat; considering that it’s mostly used to create soundscapes that inspire personal projection, contemplation, and reflection (no pun intended), it is uniquely challenging to reach an emphatic and definitive conclusion on it. REFLECTION will reach different people in different ways, and will likely gain in meaning and scope upon relisten. But any way you slice it, it’s a pleasant listening experience, if not necessarily an essential one. Caught just on the busy side of minimalism, Eno rather clearly elects to avoid the sort of skeletal repetition that proliferates in the ambient genre for better and worse (although this is the sole responsibility of the piece’s generative nature). REFLECTION is undeniably a piece that moves and breathes, wafting to-and-fro on crepuscular dashes of delicate synth pads. As is typical, there’s no percussion or anything remotely resembling a rhythmic cornerstone, and as such, the piece is both unassuming and unobtrusive.
In fact, Eno himself declares this a piece ideal for facilitating conversation of both the internal and external varieties. Both in sound and conceit it brings to mind the oft-decried genre of new age, which is similarly occupied with the encouragement of self-consideration and meditation. On a sonic level, there are dashes of chimes, shimmering zithers, and a slight tubular undertone, all of which hearken back to new age warriors such as Laraaji (who Eno produced an album for, interestingly enough), Hiroshi Yoshimura, David and Steve Gordon, or even this cassette that apparently nobody on God’s green Earth owns but is available on Youtube. Those who turn their nose up at yuppie faux-mysticism will be happy to know that any and all kitsch is eliminated, but it’s undeniable that Eno’s effort is attempting to reach the spiritual.
Much like its indebted genre of new age, REFLECTION isn’t going to be appreciated so much for what it offers as much as what it means to the listener. It goes without saying that 2016 was quite a year; Eno has allowed us a soothing deep inhale, cleansing our minds and collecting our thoughts before facing what fresh Hell 2017 will bring. However, it seems written on the wall that the most valuable musical output of the world’s rock bottom will be the anger and outrage of protest music. If you let yourself drift amongst the cosmos for too long, you miss what’s happening right in front of you. Nevertheless, as far as an hours of your day goes, you could do much worse than what’s on display here.