Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:12
It might not be too far of a stretch to call Brian Eno’s body of ambient music utilitarian. The strange, atmospheric soundscapes that Eno has grandfathered since the 70s are designed more to accompany something else than to be experienced in their own right.
His 1978 record Music for Airports is not ironically titled. His latest, Lux, is no different. Eno has described it as “music for thinking,” and it was originally designed for art installations. Single notes of piano, strings, and synthesizers reverberate languidly over the four 20 minute tracks—simply called “LUX 1”, “LUX 2”, “LUX 3”, and “LUX 4.” And that’s about it. True to ambient form, there is no distinct rhythm, and any repetition or structure is used sparingly—very different from the rock/pop/new wave albums he produced for The Talking Heads and David Bowie or released in his solo career.
However, the achievement of Lux is its ability to have its own identity and themes within its minimal presence. It seems to be curious as it explores the textures and chords created by notes played separately, but let echo long enough to interact with one another, like the meeting of two ripples in a pond. Octaves and fifths create a harmonious belly beneath the music, but particularly on tracks two and three, an occasional dissonant note can push it all in a different direction.
In this way, Lux creates an air of chance and exploration that is really quite interesting. But it’s all in the spirit of complementing a different experience, like an art gallery or time alone with a book. Listening to the music is never required.