Short but not slight, the songs on Brian Eno’s Small Craft On A Milk Sea ditch the briefly resurrected vocals of 2005’s Another Day On Earth, instead striking out for familiarly inhospitable climes and unnerving sonic textures. It’s an uncharacteristically diverse album for the electronic-music pioneer—one that grew out of several years of improvising with previous collaborators Jon Hopkins and Leo Abraham—and it bears the stylistic fluctuations of a work long in development, with eerily plucked guitars and tense piano lines giving way to doomsday lasers, Aphex Twin skitter, and finally, refracted versions of earlier tracks à la Ambient 2: The Plateaux Of Mirror. More than that album, though, Small Craft’s disturbing three-part disharmony evokes the hostile environments of Ambient 4: On Land if the swelter were suddenly cleared by gale-force winds and a cold snap intent on killing off the local fauna. After the album’s opening salvo of would-be film scores, “Flint March” begins the primary assault of breakbeats and indelicately applied surgical drills that eventually lead into “2 Forms Of Anger,” with its surprising post-rock guitars and less-surprising African drumming. It’s the perfect song to demonstrate Small Craft’s virtues: delivering the vintage Eno goods with a jolt of the unfamiliar for those looking for a variation on the formula.
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