Four days before the release of Lux, the whole hour and sixteen minutes of Brian Eno’s new album soundtracked the daily routines of a Tokyo airport. This seems like the ideal laboratory for Eno’s experimentations in ambience. The vista of synth provides the ideal backdrop to a moment; hence Eno’s continuing fondness for…airports, of all places (see his 1978 work Ambient 1: Music For Airports). The subsequent effect of this combination of sight and sound can create an effect of removal or escape from standard city life. Eno is a don at creating just this effect, but Lux continues Eno’s ethereal meanderings without ever really progressing from this ‘Enoesque‘ pigeonhole.
Generally, the structure of the music – for something so experimental – is consistent: a bedding of white-noise behind beads of keyboard notes. There are no climaxes, crescendos, rhythm sections; it’s a long haul flight away from anything resembling a vocal. Instead, the album is totally at ease with its dead air space. Eno prefers it as it gives his placid sounds maximum attention by focusing on their every detail.
The length of the album, however, is an issue. It’s as though Eno feels obligated to have the album run to its natural conclusion; anything shorter would be an injustice to the quality of his composition. Unlike his older work, however, Eno does away with ‘songs’. He separates the composition into movements – Lux 1,2,3 and 4 – making the piece totally seamless. It’s audacious all right at seventy-six minutes, although far too long: Mr Eno, please don’t tempt us into nostalgia for the days of Here Comes the Warm Jets or Before and After Science!
His best work, like the ones previously mentioned, is when he limits himself. Listening to Brian Eno’s latest gives you the sense that he hasn’t, in any way, attempted to concentrate all his best sounds into a more listenable sonic slab. For example, take his masterpiece Another Green World: no song was longer than 4 minutes, but the ambient ‘songs’ on the album seemed no less expansive or impressive than the soundscapes on Lux.
In spite of the length, the sounds are, without being too dismissive, quite alluring. Like much ambience, your attention is not what the music demands. Instead, Eno’s Lux is merely a more varied and interesting substitution for silence that can occasionally induce the chills and feelings of removal and escape. It’s those last two feelings that make the album worthwhile if, that is, you can endure the hefty running time.
Jeremy is listening to Staff Benda Bilili – ‘Tres Tres Fort’