Brian Eno, Bryan Ferry, and WyattAtzmon & Stephen
Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Olympia, and For the Ghosts Within (Warp)
Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., Dec. 31, 2010
Brian EnoSmall Craft on a Milk Sea (Warp)
Bryan FerryOlympia (Astralwerks)
Wyatt, Atzmon & StephenFor the Ghosts Within (Domino)
Music is meditation for Brian Eno, so it's fitting that portions of Small Craft on a Milk Sea – a collaboration with guitarist Leo Abrahams and pianist Jon Hopkins – sound like they're circulating air at a day spa. Eno's textures stimulate the visual cortex, and though there are nod-offs ("Complex Heaven"), sonic shifts into louder realms ("2 Forms of Anger," "Bone Jump") balance it out. Eno shows up on Roxy Music chum Bryan Ferry's latest, along with former fellow bandmates Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay. While not technically a "reunion" album, it channels some of that 1970s swagger, but it's a lot more smooth-funk than Roxy. Tracks with the Scissor Sisters ("Heartache by Numbers") and Groove Armada ("Shameless") show he's trying to transition into a 21st century hip dad like Eno, but on opener "You Can Dance," Ferry sounds like he's singing on a cruise ship. He never quite loosens his tie save for covering Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren." Third Brit in the trinity, former Soft Machine drummer/singer Robert Wyatt, is paired here with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and violinist Ros Stephen. Mixing standards ("Laura," "Lush Life") with an occasional political rap ("Where Are They Now?") might fall flat in lesser hands, but Wyatt's voice is the linchpin, and Atzmon/Stephen work amicably with it. He even gives the closer, a cover of "What a Wonderful World," a new emotional veneer.