Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album Review: Brian Eno, Reflection

Artwork for Brian Eno's album 'Reflection'
Artwork for Brian Eno's album 'Reflection'

The title alone is classic Eno. It's deceptively simple, yet open to many different interpretations. Like all the best art its deeper meaning is thoroughly dependent on how you choose to approach and understand it.

Is Eno suggesting the album is a reflection of himself? Or, alternatively, the listener? Is it music to reflect on? Or, perhaps, in?

The title is as oblique as one of his famed strategies. The perfect marriage of Eno's thoughtful art-school approach and more calculated academic brilliance. The question, as it so often is with Eno, has to be what does he mean?

Thankfully, if you're looking to decode the inscrutability of Reflection Eno gives you plenty of time, space and chill vibes to mull it all over. The album sees him returning to the ambient genre he pretty much invented.

This 54-minute album consists of one track that's also titled Reflection, reflecting the album's name.

Despite running nearly an hour it's infinitely fascinating and much more interesting than you might think. The music slowly evolves in ebbs and flows, builds incrementally - almost unnoticaebly - to climactic pinnacles of various moods and timbres before slowly stretching back out to infinity and being enveloped by its own decay, only to be replaced with softly swelling orbs of pure sound.

Eno has the ablity to coax warm, calming tones out of his synthesizers and computers that no one else can really get close to. Long time listeners will recognise that soothing rush of tranquility that certain sounds of his generate in your brain.

Of course, and this may surprise people unfamiliar with ambient, it's not all hippy-dippy bullshit. Eno's always explored unease (see 1982's Ambient 4: On Land which gets agitatingly ominous at points), and Reflection is no different.

Here he masterfully shifts gears on you, the atmosphere changing without notice, as a vaguely sinister and unsettling sense of unease washes over you before it too is washed away under the returning calm.

Eno, of course, is the master of this stuff. As the title suggests, the music here reflects what you project onto it. It blends seamlessly into the background if you're busy but also proves to be a rewarding and compelling listen when given your full attention.


Brian Eno
Reflection
Warp Records
Verdict: A fascinating and compelling ambient work

- NZ Herald

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