Since the 1975 release of Discreet Music, Brian Eno has released a series of records he has termed 'thinking music’; records such as Thursday Afternoon, Neroli, and Lux, which each offer a very particular kind of peace to the listener. Serene, sparse, and expansive, these ‘provocative spaces for thinking’ are characterised by decayed pianos, shimmering chimes and deep immersive chords; the effect being something akin to watching the ripples spread slowly across a calm lake, late at night. Reflection is the latest in the series, and finds Eno both considering the body of work which led him to this point, and where he thinks this music might go in the future.
What is most surprising, and impressive about the series of work, and in particular its latest iteration, is its malleability according to a variety of listening circumstances. In this way, presenting a review of such a piece presents a different challenge, on account of the vastness and inconsistency of the listening experience. On occasion, it can seem right to sit in quiet contemplation, taking in the details - a shuddering bell, or two wailing sirens jostling for space on the horizon - and having the depth of the composition wash over you. Other times may see Reflection taking a less active role, providing more of a background accompaniment. The point being that each listen sees a different element brought into sharper focus, while others sink into the atmosphere of Eno’s soundscape.
This, it would seem, is in many ways the point of such a work, both as a reflection of Eno’s mental and artistic space in its creation, and the actual compositional process itself. Created via the help of a probability-based musical production program written by Peter Chilvers, Reflection is just one recording from one of the sessions in which Eno input the parameters and conditions of the musical production, which then essentially writes and performs itself. The result of these slight tweaks to each creation made, for Eno, a writing process which was genuinely never the same twice. While there is only one published recording of Reflection, it is reasonable to say the same for the listener: the sounds heard are the same, but the process of listening never is.
Words: Harry Reddick