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Music can make life a cinematic experience. I'm writing this from a train ride to New York City, and Brian Eno's new album Small Craft On A Milk Sea is shaping my view of the scenery as I whiz by. The opening track is gentle and the morning light dances off the fall leaves. But when the intensity of "Forms Of Anger" kicks in, other parts of the landscape pop out — patterns of fencing, graffiti on concrete, shifting heights of foliage.
Eno makes two styles of music: songs that showcase vocals and personality and instrumental soundscapes. Small Craft On A Milk Sea, as the name implies, is the latter. And with or without the changing light of a train ride, these tunes alter my perception of the world around me, even with my eyes closed.
The album came out of improvisations with two young electronic musicians. The first, Leo Abrahams, met Eno in a guitar shop. Abrahams was trying out a guitar and, as he put it, Eno "was happy I wasn't playing 'Stairway to Heaven' with the amp turned up to 11. (So) he invited me to play on his album." For the past seven years they've worked with such artists as Paul Simon and Grace Jones.
Jon Hopkins, who plays piano and electronics, is the other standout collaborator. He and Eno worked on the last Coldplay album together, and the two performed with Abrahams at the Luminous Festival in Sydney, which Eno curated.
Unlike many of Eno's ambient albums, this one has varying moods — sometimes it lulls quietly, other times it's fierce. You can preview the entire album here until it is released Nov. 2. Turn it up. Look around. Enjoy the view. And please tell us what you see in the comments below.