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We’ve all fallen victim to life’s commotion at some point or another. Now more than ever, there’s the constant need to remain plugged in to e-mails, Twitter timelines, or Instagram photos, no matter how much it might detract from the experiences of actual reality. Despite the hustle-n-bustle, you have to sit still sometimes and appreciate those brief moments of reflection.
It appears Brian Eno wants to do just that, if his new album, Lux, is an indication. For a whopping 75 minutes — a marathon by today’s music standards — the veteran instrumentalist builds upon his established ‘Music for Thinking’ series with ambient fervor, stringing together four creeping melodies that linger within your psyche before gently floating away. The music doesn’t progress, per se; instead, Eno’s meditative blend of wafting keys and sporadic bass stabs are mentally rejuvenating. There’s an overwhelming sense of calm here, and the album remains intriguing, though it never strays far from its sonic centre. Through it all, Lux harbours a big sound through a minimal existence. That’s quite the feat for a self-proclaimed ‘non-musician.’
At this point in his career, Eno has mastered that ethos. Released in 1975, the composer’s Discreet Music was his first foray into such subdued concepts, as echoed strings danced gracefully alongside electric keys. On its 31-minute title track specifically, Eno’s airy arrangement of light synthesizers felt like the melodic depiction of morning sunrise. Eno’s work is spacious and takes great patience to get through. You absorb it, his methodical approach more focused on infinite rhythms than quick hitters for radio airplay. He’ll take an idea and stretch it as much as possible before lumping it into the next thought.
On Lux, these brooding instrumentals are at least 18 minutes apiece, and focus strictly on scant piano taps and haunting synths to accentuate its pensiveness. As with Eno’s other atmospheric work, he doesn’t rush to build atop the foundation. Often times, he leans upon infrequent chords and slowly introduces other sounds into the fray. On ‘Lux 1,’ for example, things move along smoothly until the 15:47 mark, when a low drop transitions the song to almost ominous levels. The mood shift provides a startling jolt to the melancholy melody, and signals the album’s first downturn. By ‘Lux 2,’ the temper is noticeably chilling, from its daunting acoustic guitar to the louder pitch of its strings. Here, it seems Eno wants to score the scene of a mystery thriller, or make you feel uncomfortable at the very least.
‘Lux 3’ grows more triumphant as it plays, moving listeners from Eno’s dark recesses to a place a bit brighter. While vestiges remain, these sounds embody something mystical, like a lonely explorer finding glimmers of light in an unrelenting abyss. The album’s final song — ‘Lux 4’ — feels like a proper conclusion: piano keys feel distant and layered strings underpin a feeling of personal triumph. The destination is reached; the music evokes a sense of self-fulfillment. That’s the beauty of Lux, though. On one end, it sounds like a straightforward film score. In another instance, it’s perfect headphone music for self-study or personal contemplation. Let it fill your space, and you develop all sorts of unusual back-stories to explain the soundtrack. But that also speaks to the album’s allure. It’s ambitious and can be all those things without sounding forced. You just need to sit still and listen.
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