|Title||Small Craft On A Milk Sea|
|Design||“ography (typ lith phot ge)”: Nick Robertson; design: Wordsalad|
|Music||Small group improvisation/ambient|
|Notes||If one of Brian Eno’s aims for his new album was to reawaken interest in his music and expand his audience, his decision to release Small Craft On A Milk Sea on Warp was a brilliant decision. The label, now in its twenty-first year, has been home to a strikingly wide range of forward-thinking musicians, many of whom have been deeply influenced by Eno’s work. The association makes intuitive sense. Factor in the seven live sessions hosted by different publications around the globe, the humorous Dick Flash interview and the sharing of tracks prior to release and both artist and label have managed to make quite an impression. All this notwithstanding, Small Craft On A Milk Sea is presented as an extravagant piece of design, a challenging indulgence.
The 48 minute album is presented in a diverse range of formats: an expensive and already sold-out Collector’s Edition complete with “A real copper plate, etched with the title and unique edition number embedded in the spine of the slipcase”, the Limited Edition Box Set covered here, standard CD digipak and multiple digital download formats.
The box houses the album on two 12″ records and two CDs, one containing the album, the other the bonus tracks. The outside is an attractive blend of sepia and beige tones. The cover photograph, underscored by a gold, foil-blocked strip, renders the sea as something that might equally be a stormy desert caught at dusk. Nary a single word is outwardly visible on the cover, reverse or spines. All the text is presented on one 12″ square sheet of card, encased within the folder that also contains the two CDs. Each of the three folders consists of rigid card leaves, on the front of which are abstract images that may or may not be photographic in origin. On each of their backs is a treated photograph: a lighthouse haunted by the Northern Lights, another ocean scene possibly marked by the wake of a boat and a seascape lit through stormy clouds.
The images convey a sense of the sea’s uncanniness while the shipping forecast, traced in gloss between the album credits, suggests a fragile skein of hopeful/fearful predictions that might succumb at any moment to nature’s whim. Can parallels be drawn between Eno’s working methods and the patterns spelt out on the record labels, their sleeves and the blurred images on the fronts of the folders? I can’t tell. I do know, however, that the composite impression gradually assembled by images, scale and colours serve to widen and deepen my experience of the music itself.
|Listen||Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams – Emerald and Stone:
Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams – Small Craft on a Milk Sea:
Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams – 2 Forms of Anger: