Brian Eno
Small Craft on a Milk Sea


2.0
poor

Review

by Cam EMERITUS
October 30th, 2010 | 31 replies | 14,782 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A well-intended misfire

Discrediting Small Craft on a Milk Sea for being scattershot seems almost unfair, really, even though it most certainly is. See, this is supposed to be a final pass at more glory and relevance for Brian Eno, after years of releasing albums that made nary a blip on anyone's radar; this is especially considering how Eno has set himself up for a comeback of impressive proportions, with signing to Warp and with that album art and all. But, ultimately, these intentions are reflected most clearly in the music, and Small Craft sounds like a well-intended return to the abstraction of (excellent) albums such as Another Green World and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, when Eno seemed to have the ability, and the gall, to do almost anything (obviously, Small Craft's all-over-the-place nature seems much more intentional when looked at in this perspective). Thus, this is the point in Eno's narrative where he gets his proverbial shit together, and where he finally makes an album with the daringness his best works still hold; which would be true, if Small Craft didn't misfire so greatly.

Which is a shame, really, and I actually sort of feel bad for the haranguing of Small Craft that I've done/am about to do. This is because it's necessary for Eno to keep the motivation he clearly showcases on Small Craft; there's no part in me that wants him to stop making records. He's just way too good, and the best songs on Small Craft prove that he hasn't completely lost it. Problem is, Eno seems almost as if he's worried about us, from a distant armchair in the middle-of-nowhere; us being the listeners, from the fervent fanatics to the curious first-timers. The album's intentions are to please, for one of its sixteen tracks to hopefully hit, and hit hard; unfortunately, Eno seemingly can't conjure up the creativity and genuine inspiration he's capable of, with us in mind. Small Craft's downfall is its messy approach, which seems to just be spray and pray.

Safe to say, dude missed. Small Craft lacks the cohesiveness of albums like Another Green World, where Eno's various abstract pieces added up to something more sturdily whole. Rather, Small Craft just sounds choppy, and its songs aren't altogether strong enough to make up for its unevenness. Some experiments do showcase some genuine creativity, like the sprawling and engaging ambient piece "Lake Anthropocene," or the Lightning Bolt-esque noise rock, and resulting intensity that just barely brims over the surface, of "Paleosonic." However, much of Small Craft is just almost unequivocally bad. Experiments such as the goofily quasi-ominous "2 Forms of Anger" and "Flint March", which is so thin-sounding and amateurish that it sounds like Eno crafted it on Fruity Loops, mostly fail. More damning is the album's production, which is overwhelmingly stuffy and modern. Some lo-fi charm could have certainly worked in Eno's favor, perhaps adding to the scatterbrained feel of the album; instead, Small Craft just sounds overtly processed and pristine.

The album's production, and the flaws it presents, are more clearly defined in Small Craft's ambient pieces. Besides the dauntingly brilliant "Lake Anthropocene," most of the ambient/drone-ish songs here sound lifeless, and their short runtimes and perfect, dense production makes the music way too intrusive to be interpreted. As I’ve said before, ambient works best when it’s ambiguous yet just barely and minimally engaging, and songs like “Complex Heaven” and “Slow Ice, Old Moon” are neither. Instead, their intentions are so clear -- “Slow Ice, Old Moon” is to be creepy and foreboding; “Complex Heaven,” desolate and wistful, and so on for other songs -- that it hardly leaves room for the listener. It makes Small Craft a very impersonal experience; a shame, considering how interpretive and emotionally engaging Eno’s best ambient works are.

Small Craft is an undoubtedly well-intended release, one that shows Eno is at least fully trying again to keep afloat of falling into obscurity. However, this just isn’t the same Eno that made Another Green World, that made Bush of Ghosts, and this is ultimately where Small Craft’s problems all stem from. Instead, this is an Eno who’s built a clear, constrictive bubble around himself; a bubble where only U2 and Coldplay songs play all day on an unchanging loop; a place where the mind that made those near-perfect albums is melting away, is losing all that creativity. It’s a place with constrictions so tight that he can only record an album with unneeded help, from people whose abilities don‘t even compare. Small Craft is an attempt to puncture that bubble, but doesn’t quite do it; but, hopefully, if Eno’s focus is still there, the next one should. I’m at least optimistic that it will.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenophanes
Emeritus
October 30th 2010



10585 Comments


I hope Enotron doesn't see this...

Digging: United Nations - The Next Four Years

AggravatedYeti
October 30th 2010



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Eno 4.0 -- Cam 2.0

Collective 3.0? perhaps

SeaAnemone
October 30th 2010



19743 Comments


who do I believe?

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

AggravatedYeti
October 30th 2010



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

my brilliant maths of course.

Photon
October 30th 2010



1292 Comments


yeah ur rating +.5
Edit: has anyone heard the new Brian Mcbride record yet?

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2010



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

noes! this had better be at least a 3.5. Highly anticipated! Cam you've ruined my day.

Gyromania
October 30th 2010



15200 Comments


I love that album art

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2010



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Woah I'm two tracks in and loving the shit out of this already.

Enotron
October 30th 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

touche cam

nah i think you made really good points, only part i really disagree with is the "fruit loops" thing. other than that you were mostly spot on, I just found the tunes to embody that whole "ambiguity" aspect of ambient in the way they were presented and arranged.

crank
October 30th 2010



332 Comments


Hmm ..

crank
October 30th 2010



332 Comments


Yeah, I don't think this is unequivocally bad - it's actually pretty good; just not great.


This is far from Eno at his best

Ire
October 30th 2010



41749 Comments


sea

Enotron
October 31st 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

i will forgive you for such a statement kane as long as we can conclude that you are my son

Enotron
October 31st 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

but yeah not his best but its fun i like it

couldwinarabbit
October 31st 2010



6996 Comments


If I rated album I think I would have a really hard time giving any of them less than a 4.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
October 31st 2010



17200 Comments


cam should change the summary to "He dun goofed"

patroneyes
October 31st 2010



1919 Comments


regardless of how good this is....


the cover art roolz

slep
November 1st 2010



1604 Comments


Really well done review. Curious to check this out now.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
November 1st 2010



7144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review. Fantastically written.

joshuatree
Emeritus
November 1st 2010



3743 Comments


Yeah, I don't think this is unequivocally bad


was straight over-exaggerating when i said that but w/e

cam should change the summary to "He dun goofed"


heavily considering this





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