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Small Craft On A Milk Sea by Brian Eno

Brian Eno

Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Release Date: Nov 2, 2010

Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Pop/Rock, Experimental Ambient

Record label: Warp


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Album Review: Small Craft On A Milk Sea by Brian Eno

Very Good, Based on 14 Critics

No Ripcord - 90
Based on rating 9/10

There’s nobody quite like Brian Eno. I don’t think anybody disputes this. That said, many have tried to emulate the man’s prolific musical output with varying levels of success. If we are to be honest, nothing reaches the heights this ever-important musician has scaled in the past, and he’d be hard pressed to reach them again himself.

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PopMatters - 90
Based on rating 9/10

Finally, Warp Records and Brian Eno come together. These two names hold equal footing in the pantheon of electronic music, Eno having charted the way and the Warp Records roster picking up on his cues to continually push the genre forward in the past two decades. Crucially, neither Eno nor the folks at Warp ever seem comfortable merely repeating patterns of success.

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Filter - 87
Based on rating 87%%

Another resplendent nonpareil from Eno (and a collaborative improvisation with Leo Abraham and Jon Hopkins), this is veritably a spontaneous soundtrack to an inferential film, one that is essentially revealed in the imagination of the listener. And, oh, the things you just may imagine. The opening trio of eerie but fragile compositions might vaguely evoke someone waking dazed and alone on a desolate beach; they’re followed by another trois conveying all the dystopian frenzy of a car chase across a bleak Ballardian cityscape.

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Pitchfork - 74
Based on rating 7.4/10

A Google search for "Small Craft on a Milk Sea", the title of Brian Eno's new album, turns up several sites focused on the record's next-level packaging. As phrases like "signed and numbered," "copper plate," and "lithographic" gave way to descriptors like "birch paper-covered slipcase," "crimson stock," and "foil blocked credit sheet," my first thought was whether the relentless fetishization of the physical product does the content within any favors. My second thought was, of course it's going to be lavish.

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New Musical Express (NME) - 70
Based on rating 3.5/5

Once as renowned for his adventurous tastes in porn as for his constantly groundbreaking music, [a]Brian Eno[/a] makes an unlikely elder statesman, but it’s a role he’s filling with aplomb these days. ‘[b]Small Craft On A Milk Sea[/b]’ is a polished and assured return to solo recording – entirely instrumental and pretty much entirely electronic, it recalls Eno’s ’70s ambient work, although the serenity is broken up by glitch-influenced pieces that suggest he’s been paying attention to his new label’s back catalogue. Throughout, the production is intricate enough to demand repeated listening, especially on a decent pair of headphones.

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Drowned In Sound - 70
Based on rating 7/10

In Michael Bracewell’s excellent book on Roxy Music’s point of commencement, Re-Make Re-Model, Brian Eno defines successful pop as 'the creation of a new, imaginary world, which beckons the listener to join it. ' Eno has spent a decent part of the past couple of decades furiously back-pedaling from that conceit, via his wretchedly earthy work in the production chair for Dido, Coldplay, Andrea Corr and countless other artists who revel in the mundane instead of shifting listeners away from it. Thankfully, he’s gotten back into the business of creating imaginary worlds on Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Eno’s first album for Warp, which was born out of sporadic collaborations between guitarist Leo Abrahams and electronic composer Jon Hopkins.

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Prefix Magazine - 70
Based on rating 7.0/10

Ever the interdisciplinary theoretician/conceptualist, Brian Eno has always been reluctant to take on the role of auteur, much less anything so limiting as "musician." That might explain why he's been so slow to release proper solo albums (not counting a number of limited-release recordings of his art instillation projects) in recent years. Though he's created collaborative efforts with David Byrne, Robert Fripp, and others in the last decade, Small Craft On A Milk Sea is only his second real solo album of the 21st century, and it's his first instrumental solo effort since 1997's The Drop. {Again, "installations" aside.) That gives Small Craft a lot to live up to, but the album is no letdown.

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The Guardian - 60
Based on rating 3/5

Eno's pioneering seems to be more in installations and iPad applications than music these days. Where 2005's Another Day on Earth harked back to his 1970s song-oriented albums, his 25th solo offering is closer to his "ambient music". The likes of Emerald and Lime and the similarly named Emerald and Stone are trademark Eno, and lovely: music as thought-provoking, soothing balm.

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Slant Magazine - 60
Based on rating 3.0/5

Despite its quiet release, Small Craft on a Milk Sea comes loaded with all kinds of external baggage: A collaboration between Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, and Leo Abrahams, Eno’s debut for Warp Records is culled partially from earlier recording sessions, including tracks rejected for Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. It has all the makings of a mess, and in some ways it is, though Eno’s constant gamesmanship manages to keep things interesting and tie many of these disparate threads together. A dominant musical personality who’s well versed in both collaboration and variety, Eno manages to make a kernel of himself clearly audible throughout the album, even with all the different directions in which he’s pulled.

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Tiny Mix Tapes - 60
Based on rating 3/5

If you were to dig through a random neighbor’s record collection, chances are you’d come across something with Brian Eno’s fingerprints on it. Maybe massive-selling offerings by Coldplay or U2, the still commercially viable art-rock of The Talking Heads and Devo — or, if your neighbor is anything like a TMT reader, perhaps there are a few Roxy Music albums, the Eno-curated No New York no-wave compilation, Bowie’s Krautrock-leaning “Berlin Trilogy,” or My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Eno’s 1981 collaboration with the Head’s David Byrne, often considered one of the first records to fully combine electronics, sampling, and divergent world music sounds. Few artists have been all things to all people.

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NOW Magazine - 60
Based on rating 3/5

Legendary ambient pioneer Brian Eno bases his newest album on the idea of film soundtracks, which makes perfect sense given his history as a musician. The tracks here aren't so much songs as landscapes, meant to evoke imagery rather than narrative. However, despite all his attempts to avoid traditional songwriting techniques and structures, there are a surprising number of actual melodies on Small Craft On A Milk Sea.

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Sputnikmusic - 40
Based on rating 2.0/5

Review Summary: A well-intended misfireDiscrediting Small Craft on a Milk Sea for being scattershot seems almost unfair, really, even though it most certainly is. See, this is supposed to be a final pass at more glory and relevance for Brian Eno, after years of releasing albums that made nary a blip on anyone's radar; this is especially considering how Eno has set himself up for a comeback of impressive proportions, with signing to Warp and with that album art and all. But, ultimately, these intentions are reflected most clearly in the music, and Small Craft sounds like a well-intended return to the abstraction of (excellent) albums such as Another Green World and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, when Eno seemed to have the ability, and the gall, to do almost anything (obviously, Small Craft's all-over-the-place nature seems much more intentional when looked at in this perspective).

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BBC Music
Opinion: Very Good

These pieces actively seek to impose themselves on the listener and their environment. Chris Power 2010 Brian Eno’s work cuts a distinctive swath through the last 40 years of rock and electronic music. He played synthesizers in Roxy Music; created two of the great avant-rock albums of the 1970s (Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World), and collaborated on three with David Bowie (Low, "Heroes" and Lodger); recorded with the German group Cluster; introduced the fluidity of African pop into Talking Heads’ angular art-punk; and in 1981 collaborated with David Byrne on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, an early example of sample-based pop.

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Austin Chronicle
Opinion: Average

Music is meditation for Brian Eno, so it's fitting that portions of Small Craft on a Milk Sea – a collaboration with guitarist Leo Abrahams and pianist Jon Hopkins – sound like they're circulating air at a day spa. Eno's textures stimulate the visual cortex, and though there are nod-offs ("Complex Heaven"), sonic shifts into louder realms ("2 Forms of Anger," "Bone Jump") balance it out. Eno shows up on Roxy Music chum Bryan Ferry's latest, along with former fellow bandmates Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay.

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