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Brian Eno - Reflection (Album Review)

Tuesday, 10 January 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

Reviewing ambient music is a difficult task, mainly because it operates in a different way to most other styles of the artform. It is sound intended to fade into the background; eschewing attention and directing the listener to alternative cognitive locations.

So the act of sitting down and decoding it can seem vaguely quixotic, both practically (one gets distracted) and philosophically (does one review the album, or one’s own id?). As such, ‘Reflection’ - Brian Eno’s second release in as many years - must be understood in the context of its effectiveness in getting the mind to drift and creating a fertile environment for thought.

In this regard, it is highly successful. This is music that would be equally potent promoting serenity during a rush hour commute, yoga class or meditation retreat. One key element here is its format: ‘Reflection’ is comprised of one 54 minute track. This is a potentially bold auteur flourish in a genre that, in essence, denies the author’s role.

The reason might be political. Following a year that has seen multiple right hands to the collective liberal soul, Eno’s oeuvre is one that inspires the kind of new age proto-spirituality that makes the average Daily Mail op-ed writer froth at the gill (or pretend to at least). Eno is a multimedia artist who has undoubtedly been affected by this social environment, and ‘Reflection’ seems to demand calmness at a time of tumult.

The music itself is placid even by the standards of the genre. Led by saw waves and bell-like drones, it follows a terse-yet-sprawling musical mode that is both ephemeral and extra-terrestrial. Whirring synths compile a spacious compendium of stillness, while Eno demonstrates the detailed production nous that one might expect of a 40-year veteran who has worked with Bowie, Phil Collins, Coldplay, Talking Heads and U2.

Time, space and air are conceptual features of ‘Reflection’, alongside a watery, shimmering quality, rich in calm vibrations and blissful breadth. It’s a sedate work that dances on the edge of somnambulism. But like Radiohead’s Daydreaming, there is an anger here hidden away well beneath the surface. ‘Reflection’ can be understood as a stoic paean to internal contemplation; a mindful shelter in a post-truth storm.



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