Brian Eno: The Ship | Virgin Media
Brian Eno: The Ship

Brian Eno: The ShipAlbum review by Rhian Daly | Rating: ★★★★☆

03/05/2016

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Brian Eno has always been a man of challenging extremes. Even now, at 67 years of age, he's showing no signs of losing that quality that's helped him become one of music's most innovative and interesting creators.

There's plenty of intriguing threads in The Ship, his sixth record for Warp. On his official website, Eno cites WWII and the sinking of the "unsinkable" Titanic as inspirations for the album and his exploration into what he calls "dramatic experiments with the relationships between humans and the worlds they make for themselves." Fittingly, the songs – which largely segue together for the record's near 50-minute run time – are full of doom and despair, while still remaining incredibly beautiful.

Opener The Ship clocks in at just over 21 minutes and sounds like a vessel stranded in the middle of the dark, still ocean – isolated, a sense of the foreboding looming on the horizon. On it, Eno manipulates his vocals to sound monastical and then, later, curiously robotic. There are whirrs and beeps that ring out like radar searching for a wreckage and glacial synths that ascend like icebergs peeking above the waves, only to disappear again seconds later. 

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Fickle Sun (i) is nearly as long, but almost entirely different. It's more discordant, with cymbal crashes and overdriven drones subsiding to Eno intoning, "All the boys are falling down" over and over as sounds flicker in the distance behind him. Parts (ii) and (iii) are different again – the former is a spoken word piece subtitled The Hour Is Thin, read by actor Peter Serafinowicz. As a single, melancholic piano melody plays on in the background, he speaks of war and the ocean as dispassionately as you would a grocery list.

On Eno's website, he describes The Velvet Underground's I'm Set Free as being "even more relevant now", which is perhaps his reasoning for including a cover of it as the final track here. Whyever it's included, it's a beautiful ending – a pillow of lush, dreamy guitars, smooth strings and Lou Reed's perfect lyrics ("I'm set free to find a new illusion"). Proof if ever there was that making it through challenges only brings rewards. 

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