Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Brian Eno - Reflection Review

One of many untouchable artists to arise out of the highly-influential 1970's, Brian Eno's work acted as a benchmark for Ambient music, and a cornerstone for Art Rock before that. Having spent copious hours listening through his discography, finding albums I adore in Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain, and more, his Ambient work, quite literally a genre defined by him, had more or less been lost on my grasp. There were efforts sure, like Apollo, Cluster & Eno, and the infamous Another Green World, where his imaginative work set sail to a certain dimension, fusing with creative sounds and unordinary structures, but the bulk of his solemn Ambient pieces felt despondent, dry, and inept. Needless to say, I was above praising Eno at every step for every release, and thankfully, lately, many are now too. However, it was 1985, with the 61-minute drudge of Thursday Afternoon, where my tolerance couldn't bear any more. Empty, vapid, and excruciatingly dull, Thursday Afternoon, by its own admission, acted like those definers, representing an utterly forgettable part of the week. 30 years have past, over three decades, and Brian Eno, with Reflection, has essentially gone nowhere. Using the shtick of a forever evolving app, with the hefty price tag of $39.99, Reflection preys on those who worship at Eno's feet, wasting 60-minutes to personify nothing at all.

Those are some harsh words, for both Eno and his music, but while they're both true in Reflection's case, they're not when it comes to his other works. Last year, Eno released The Ship, a three-track effort that invited new ideas to work over his Ambient starscapes, along with a beautifully rendered cover of The Velvet Underground's 'I'm Set Free.' There was purpose, creativity, and ambition. Like Thursday Afternoon, this is what makes Reflection irritating, because you know the mastermind behind its creation is capable of so much more. Back in the mid-80's, few who saw through his guise would make the same admissions, worried that the genre known for being pretentious finally took over the will of its creator. It's one thing to create a single moving picture of, let's say, the apocalypse, but another entirely for an unmemorable afternoon idling by as your precious time goes to waste. Reflection, as it seems, doesn't even have that concept to boot, merely imitating the aforementioned album, fading in and out of purposeless obscurity, content at defining nothing.

The understanding of abstract Ambient is that your brain is supposed to fill in the pieces, set you off on some inward journey of remembering, or picturing, a scene that music reminds you of. A fair assumption to make, and one, if someone can associate Reflection with anything, I won't debate. However, Reflection does nothing for me, and ironically, as it played onwards in the background of that uneventful afternoon, the only vision that came to mind was the uneventful afternoon I was experiencing, something that wouldn't be heightened or dampened when the piece finished and silence filled the room. To me, they're interchangeable. If Reflection played whilst I slept, took a shower, drove on my way to work, silence would've been a fair, and unrecognizable substitute. It's just that ignorable. At times, Reflection even finds itself contemplating going mute too, before reverting that idea, instituting some droning synths, and coming to the realization that no sounds equals no music. Safe to say, Brian Eno's not at John Cage's level yet. But even so, the point stands that Eno's latest work hardly fails to elevate itself above silence, a testament to the minute details the artist finds, but a detriment in knowing almost any artist, including himself, can do more.

Many who defend Eno's arduous works find nouns like peaceful, tranquil, and serene apt. I do too. Reflection is certainly all those things. I feel calm, relaxed, and composed whilst listening to the piece. It does have that going for it, much like Thursday Afternoon, but do you know how easy that is to attain? Some might know more than others. A trip outside somewhere remotely rural will offer those same sentiments, as the passing sounds of nature, the closest organic composition to Ambient music, express themselves in fading relatively just like Reflection. To some then, like those nestled within the confines of a bustling city, the peace of Reflection is pertinent and tactful, as noise in harmony is something rarely experienced whilst surrounded by millions of noisy humans and the machines they've created. However, to those, like myself, who've spent their fair share of time within themselves, or out in nature distant from humans, Reflection doesn't instill any feelings I haven't already felt. More so, silence in nature is free, a $40 app with the promise of infinite contemplation is not. 

I won't accuse Eno of being greedy, even though the writing's there, as he does offer the final, one-hour version on Spotify for all to hear, but man does Reflection leave a bad taste in your mouth when the creator's perceived worth far outweighs it's own content. In theory, the paid app version of Reflection differs in its infinitude, not sound. Eno himself spoke about the intentions, and that he wanted to make "music that would be there as long as you wanted it to be." In this sense he succeeds, in terms of his other quote though ("I wanted also that this music unfold differently all the time"), he does not. From minute one, to 27, to 50, Reflection's sound changes minutely, never daring to step outside the calm ride it's found itself in. Hushed, droning synths come in and out of focus, with slight chimes parlaying in the background. That's the scope of Reflection, a far cry from being different. In fact it's quite the opposite, as the LP meanders around empty space like a dullard contemplating vast ideas before coming to the conclusion that him merely rambling was the solution. Eno feels as if his efforts are revolutionary, daring to call Reflection his "most sophisticated so far," when in reality, the sophistication fails to reach the music, as it's stuck in Eno's head.

No comments:

Post a Comment