Label: Warp Release date: 15/11/10 Link: Offical Site Buy: Amazon There’s a line that Brian Eno has always tread for me, one not of “good” and “bad” but “good” and “enjoyable.” You see, for all of the hubbub around Eno’s previous work and pedigree (the kind of buzz and history that cannot go unnoticed), his work is never bad but rather bound to some scale of “good” on differing degrees. In the case of Small Craft On A Milk Sea, Eno manages to make something that is, as always, good, but, similar to his last solo effort, not amazing – a minor degree of very good if you will. Barring instances of pure inspiration, the very genesis of this album casts doubts that are both dashed and affirmed in the forty-nine minute running time. To begin for those who might be unaware, this LP was culled from improvisations. While that has worked beautifully for Eno before ((No Pussyfooting), some of the Ambient series), here it yields wildly shifting results, the kind of listen that is as exhilarating as it is prone to give you whiplash. In typical form, the pieces here are instrumental, droney, introspective, and wholly in the typical style of Eno, even when driven by beats (‘Flint March’ and four other tracks) – this is definitely expected, but the glitchier tendencies show that this is indeed a Warp release for the otherwise generative man. It’s safe to say that this is not a new masterpiece, but rather an exploration appears to give some solace to the man’s mind, moments of such self-reflection and omphaloskpesis materializing as the stunningly gorgeous ‘Emerald and Lime’ and ‘Emerald and Stone.’ Sadly the fleeting nature of each piece almost guarantees that there won’t be another “1/1” to be found in the entire lot, a choice and truth that is comforting yet disappointing for people like me who actually liked Neroli. It’s tempting to lay the blame for the sub par tracks on the collaborators, especially Jon Hopkins, but given the truly aleatoric nature of some compositions (“Some of the more melodic pieces began with Brian asking Leo and myself to write down a series of random chords…” muses Hopkins here) these can be chalked up to nothing more than editing flaws. I’m more keen to call it a minor failure at an experiment, akin to Nerve Net as a whole or the lesser moments of the previously mentioned Ambient series. Here’s where the impasse is for myself as a reviewer and fan, a situation that makes the album sit on the fence mentioned above. While the beat-oriented pieces are remarkable or spotty, the ambient pieces are downright gorgeous or embody Erik Satie’s concept of “furniture music.” That is to say, even when it’s not great by the standards set, it is amazingly unobtrusive overall, a gentle cloud of sound that just washes over and through the head and house before dissipating calmly and quietly. When I first received this album, my gut reaction was, “Either I’ll love this or at the very least it’ll be an unobtrusive album I’ll return to every now and then.” Small Craft On A Milk Sea falls somewhere between these two divisions, the kind of album that you’ll want to listen to but may not find to be as compelling the second or third time around. The kind of album presented here is a “pull it out once every other month or so” kind of a listen, enjoyable and enriching but only at select moments. Don’t expect another Before and After Science or Ambient 1-4, expect some clever hybridization and enjoyable tone clouds to brighten (or darken, depending on your current mood) your day, the Eno way. (If Mr. Eno wishes to buy the phrase “The Eno Way To Brighten Your Day,” please contact The 405 and we’ll talk). Photobucket