Brian Eno is not new to the idea of electronic music. In fact, since he released his debut in 1974, he has been one of the most influential contributors to the electronic music craft. There’s little doubt that his career has a clear direction. His album “Small Craft on a Milk Sea” on the other hand, does not.
Two kinds of tracks make up the record. A majority of the 15 songs are slow and echoing electric synthesizer pieces, providing the kind of soundtracks that were popular in ‘80s horror films. Or perhaps the soundtrack to being alone in a small craft on a milk sea.
The album suggests some of these tracks should form a dichotomy. “Emerald and Lime” should theoretically work with “Lime and Stone” just as “Complex Heaven” should go with “Lesser Heaven.” Eno just tweaks the setup ever so slightly, so if there was a meaning behind his titles, it’s lost on the listener. “Stone” just takes the electric synthesizer in “Lime” and replaces it with a regular keyboard.
At least those tunes are short. “Late Anthropocene” closes the album, offering eight minutes of the same.
The other type of song on the album picks up the pace dramatically. “Horse” is jarringly fast compared to the other tracks on the album. “2 Forms of Anger,” with its background of chugging machinery and its electric sound effects, only needs vocals from Trent Reznor to be a Nine Inch Nails song.
None of the tracks are bad. The problem is there is no flow between them. As Reznor did on his “Ghosts” album, Eno needs more fast (actually, medium paced) songs to balance the slow, haunting tracks.
It’s clear, based on both Eno’s past work and his focus on themes, there is a message hidden in the album. It just needs some help hatching.