Earlier in November 2012, the undercurrent of Warp Records swept an unexpected name into its net of new releases in a partnership that is sure to leave a significant notch in the British record label. Experimental ambient artist Brian Eno released his first album since 2010’s Making Space, and first solo project since 2005. Entitled Lux, the new work appropriately found its niche in 2012 as an ambient installation in several public spaces around the world before evolving into the composition that is now available for home listening. Lux is not an innovative record for Eno, nor does it seem to demand the same attention as its Warp neighbors, but as it sidles up with Warp’s colorful roster of IDM and experimental electronica acts like Autechre, Flying Lotus, and Kwes, Lux becomes a tangent that demands attention if only in rediscovering the timely relevance that made Brian Eno’s earlier works so bold.
The record is composed of four seamless, unnamed tracks that hover in characteristic ambient meditation with seemingly few peaks to give a hint of the soundscape’s direction. As a new element floats across the periphery, you can just catch a glimpse of the previous as it drifts away. Eno preludes the experience with just enough movement to suggest that Lux is a record that you can trace as it shifts: its minimalism is not stagnant.
Watch the public audio-visual project, DAY OF LIGHT, for Brian Eno’s album ‘Lux’:
The first track tests the waters with layers developing in droplets, expanding, and eventually filling a plane. Since it is so unintrusive, the synthetic sound breathes with an almost organic image of woodwinds, strings and ivory keys. While the first track may drip, the second allows sound to pan around the hollow hum of synthesized wind. Layers alternate between thin coats of anxiety and soothing hypnosis. Some moments feel like a vacuum yet there is never an absence of sound. The extension of each moment is almost theatrical, with occasional punctuation that suggests an isolated gesture in contemporary dance or an occurring thought. Given that each track on Lux feels sparse, finding these moments can be an adventure in its own right.
Having been sedated by the previous tracks, it is surprising to notice the change in atmosphere in the third track. It builds to more anticipation and uncertainty than the previous two by evoking an ensemble of strings as opposed to isolated encounters, until a gentle change in movement occurs slightly earlier than mid-track. The fourth, and final, track carries a sense of finality with it with in a slow sort of percolation, the absence of the synth’s vibrato in the track’s introduction suggesting a darkening evening after a heavy rain.
It is worth noting the range of environments that have played host to Lux. From the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, the album offers insight into the role of slowness in our social environments. In Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, for instance, how far would we have to separate ourselves from the natural ambiance of our surroundings in order to encounter Lux? Consider the intimacy with which we can experience minimalist music, given sprawling time to analyse our emotions and conclusions, and contrast this with an environment that stifles these quiet spaces. Played in the Great Gallery however, Lux could easily reverse your experience and command the environment. It transforms into a reminder of ambiance being far greater than simply background. Quietly joining many other introspective artists in the Warp Records collection, Brian Eno’s Lux demonstrates that minimalism can be incredibly sensual. By stepping away from the expectation that something will be blatantly stated through melody, you have the chance to explore your own statements and images, aroused by focusing on individual moments.
For more information on Brian Eno:
Warp Records: Brian Eno