BRIAN ENO: LUX (2012)
1) Lux 1; 2) Lux 2; 3) Lux 3; 4) Lux 4.
With all these collaborations and new ideas and attempts to conquer the world of body-oriented electronic pulses, we'd almost forgotten Eno's primary function in the world of instrumental electronic music — as provider of heavenly ambient soundscapes. Ever since Thursday Afternoon made a, ahem, definitive statement on that, «heavenly ambience» became largely reserved for scattered installations and Windows themes; I think that The Shutov Assembly was really the last album tagged as simply «solo», whereas purely ambient releases from later years were all supposed to go along with the installations.
Actually, Lux, too, was originally commissioned as a soundtrack to an art gallery (and, prior to that, was exposed at airport terminals), but it counts as an artistic work in its own rights — not to be specifically associated with any particular space, time, or n-th dimension. Consisting of four tracks that run for about 18-19 minutes each, it returns us to the good old days when Mr. Eno was trying to make us understand and slowly savor the inherent beauty in one single piano note before moving on to another one — a nostalgic trip, if you wish, to the times of Music For Airports and On Land, when the world was so young and unspoiled and Man had plenty of time to relax and chill out after unloading all the fresh kill and waiting for Woman to cook his supper.
These days, we've all advanced to a new level of conscience — and preoccupation — that probably will not let you get in the 100% proper mood to enjoy this new musical painting. For what it is worth, though, I find it every bit as well-developed and beautiful as anything he'd ever done in the genre. All four tracks sound very much alike, with relatively minor nuances responsible for minor mood shifts, so, in a way, it is sort of like a somewhat busier, more involving Thursday Afternoon, where the point is no longer to infuriate you with its subtle arrogance, but to honestly entertain you with visions of yet another glass castle... or tropical aquarium, whichever way your imagination takes you, provided you have one and it includes hardware support for Enotronics.
The specific catch is that, in addition to Eno, Lux also features the contributions of Leo Abrahams on «Moog guitar», and of Neil Catchpole on viola and violin: I do not even remember when was the last time, if there even was a last time, that Brian recruited string players for his purely ambient projects, and these textures make a lot of difference. Usually it is just a single note, of course, bowed smoothly and steadily somewhere in the background, fading in and out ever so slightly, but in combination with the slowly tinkling keyboards this can have an even stronger hypnotizing effect than bare keyboards (unless the wheezy sound happens to irritate you; if so, better shut off and reboot your ears in safe mode before continuing).
Most of the positive responses to Lux, I think, came from people who never realised before how seriously tired they were of all the information overload and all the frantic activity (or frantic simulated activity) of modern music (particularly electronic) — probably putting it in the same category as all those «slow reading clubs» and other feats of deceleration and downshifting — so it is quite possible that this was Eno's intention all the way: for him, to release Lux in 2012 is pretty much the same as it would be for a major former disco star to put out a canonical disco record. Just to see if it still holds up, you know. From that point of view, Lux is a total success: critics liked it, fans seemed pleased, and yes, the man can still put you to healthy sleep after all these years. And, as I have always insisted, there's nothing wrong with music that puts you to sleep if its original intention is to put you to sleep. The nagging question is: if you pay full price for a ticket to one of those galleries where they play this, are you offered a complementary pillow and blanket, or do those cost extra?