Written By: Fletcher Bonin
With his twenty-sixth solo release Reflection, Brian Eno continues to solidify his place among experimental music’s mainstays. Indeed, if the goal of experimental music is to avoid comparison to other groups at all costs, Eno has achieved this on this latest release. While he may not have many (or any) peers in his eerie genre, we are able to compare Reflection to his past bodies of work. First of all, Eno has been creating darkly wonderful music since his 1975 release Discreet Music. This album title proves equally appropriate as a genre description, as his music in many ways defies categorization of any kind. On the spectrum between sound and music, Eno’s ambient arrangements fall closer, in my opinion, to the former.
That being said, there is something delightfully unique about Reflections. As with his 1985 release, Thursday Afternoon, the album is comprised of one track. This latest production is fifty-four minutes long. By maintaining the length of a full album and folding it neatly and deliberately into one track, Eno creates a sense of unity and continuity that is so rare in music as to be almost never seen. This proves especially true when examining the trend of hit singles and much anticipated album releases.
While being overwhelmingly natural in sound, Reflection is indeed a program created by Eno in which a finite set of sounds are repeated in infinite patterns. If that isn’t experimental music I don’t know what is. This is the sort of music you’d expect to accompany nature documentaries. It is slow and fluid, rising and falling gently and punctuated by simple bells and harp plucks. This music is comforting as an ambient background noise and yet almost unsettling as a main feature.
For me, the questions remain: What is Brian Eno’s objective with this beautifully haunting music? Does he even have one? Is there some point he is trying to make? Is he challenging the convention of music itself or reaffirming it’s artistic purpose? Perhaps Eno wants us to answer these questions for ourselves, or perhaps the point is to ask the questions in the first place. Or for you nihilists out there, perhaps the point is that there is no point. Yet another intriguing fold to Reflections is that Eno has provided an app version of the song that plays continuously and changes certain musical aspects throughout the day. While Reflections is certainly a challenging composition, I highly recommend giving it a listen, as it is meditative and relaxing in an incredibly powerful way.