Brian Eno just released The Ship, his latest full-length solo album on Warp. Apparently, the LP grew out of the legendary producer's fascination with World War I and the sinking of the so-called "unsinkable" Titanic. It plays like a pastiche, conjures a collage of different stories told with the help of sea-like ambient instrumentations that conclude with a pretty straightforward cover of The Velvet Underground's "I'm Set Free," penned by Lou Reed.
In the artist's words, via a statement: "On a musical level, I wanted to make a record of songs that didn't rely on the normal underpinnings of rhythmic structure and chord progressions but which allowed voices to exist in their own space and time, like events in a landscape. I wanted to place sonic events in a free, open space."
He works towards that goal by breaking the 48-minute album into four tracks of completely different lengths: the first half of the album is the twenty-one minute title track, whereas the second half is the three-part suite titled "Fickle Sun." Throughout the work he balances elements of ambient electronic music with the use of his own vocals for the very first time.
One part of "Fickle Sun" features the British actor Peter Serafinowicz reading a poem penned by a Markov chain generator based on prompts related to the sinking of the Titanic and World War I. The tripartite suite concludes with the Lou Reed cover.
The electronic pioneer, now 67, has earned a name for himself across mediums. A true Jack-of-all-Trades, he opened a showcase of his pastel-hued artwork at a London gallery the same day the new album dropped, which New York Times reports is intended to have a healing effect on patients at a nearby hospital.
Calling Eno a "legendary producer" isn't fluff. He is as well-known for being a founding member of Roxy Music, as he is for his countless collaborations with the likes of David Bowie, as he is for his solo work.
He's at least partially responsible for so many great songs -- we're talking about the entirety of Bowie's Berlin Trilogy including Heroes, Low and Lodger, as well as Devo's debut LP, and tons of material by U2, Coldplay, Sinead O'Connor and Talking Heads just to namedrop a few. On top of all that, he also composed Windows 95's six-second start-up sound.
I'm probably not the only one to admit that I honestly didn't expect much from The Ship: he's already contributed so much to the world as a musician, he could have just phoned this one in with something critics would have called "consistent" if he wanted to. Instead, Eno exceeds expectations by smashing his own paradigms and dropping a new album that is truly, well, new.
After listening to the album in full a few times, Lou Reed's lyrics "I'm set free to find a new illusion" take on a whole new meaning. Give Eno's take on it below.