“The Ship” and Brian Eno’s 45-year Career

Brian Eno’s music is intuitive and bears all the blue-eyed intellect of its creator. It’s meant for reflection, sometimes wearing a beret, or sometimes strutting, donning blue eyeshadow and feathers, much as Eno’s stage alter ego did in 1972. The music can rock, dissect, and sometimes ascribe to the concept album art-rock paradigm while mostly managing to circumvent the usual attending grandiosity or pomposity. But the music is always beautiful, or thought-provoking, and often both.

Eno’s new album, The Ship, was inspired by the dual disasters of World War I and the Titanic. Thematically, he links together these dual sinking ships — whether plights of principle or luxury vessels — as examples of hubris.

He recently told Uncut that he’d noticed “a pattern that keeps repeating the connection between power and vulnerability — or power and paranoia, shall we say. The Titanic and the First World War both represent a point at which empires had reached a level of hubris and arrogance and confidence that made them think that they could do anything and they would succeed at it…. They all thought they were unsinkable, and they sank.”

The album is organized as a meandering ambient lullaby ending with an anachronistic nod to The Velvet Underground that was recorded over a decade ago. Its first eponymous track is over 21 minutes long, while the next, “Fickle Sun (i)” clocks in around 18 minutes, followed by “Fickle Sun (ii) The Hour is Thin,” a comparably meager two-something minutes long. Finally, “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free” is a nod to VU’s original “I’m Set Free” Eno originally recorded more than 12 years ago.

The first installment of the “Fickle Sun” triad is a kind of transcendental emergence into ambience that culminates with a curious assortment of snatches of images manufactured by a sort of free-association ghost in the machine poet, as the verses were computer-generated by text fed to Markov Chain Generator software. These text selections, variously, include accounts of Titanic sinking by survivors in lifeboats, pornographic WWI soldier songs, anti-hacking warnings, and other music by Eno.

Read more at Rhapsody.

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