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Brian Eno – Neroli

May 20, 2008

In the mid 1990s, Brian Eno went through a string of albums that felt somewhat generic, even manufactured. This is not unusual or necessarily bad, considering Eno’s love for system based music, music that should be manufactured. Also, even the worst Brian Eno albums are compelling and fun. Neroli is a return to basic minimalist ambient music from the complex electronic beat oriented album Nerve Net and the dark ambient of The Shutov Assembly. The liner notes of Neroli explain that the album is yet another system based album, but does not really explain how. The entire album consists of warm synthesizers doodling in the Phrygian mode with a sparse rhythm. The Phrygian mode is mysterious and somewhat dissonant, and the tonic of the scale rarely shows up. But what is the system that is the framework, besides the Phrygian scale? How are the notes arranged and why? What dictates the rhythm? The lack of evidence in these areas suggests that Eno had a somewhat stronger influence on the music creatively than, say, Discreet Music. Which makes the fact that the music is on the threshhold of melody and silence that much more interesting. It is hard to say whether the album is deliberately simple minded or another of his postmodern albums that are of poor quality (see The Drop, probably his worst album. Although it contains a few keepers, the majority of the album was obviously thrown together rather quickly). Neroli can be quite relaxing. The fifty minute length is long, but I doubt Eno expects the listener to sit through its entirety, listening closely. The Phrygian scale is contemplative and relaxing the way it is treated, but it is the Phrygian scale. This is a rare album that you could have probably made yourself, given the right equipment. However, you didn’t. Brian Eno did. Thus, it is a part of his repertoire of sonic tools, and is desirable for those fans that love his ambient music. If you want a place to start on ambient music, this is the last place you would want to look. In fact, if you are looking for something here, the album technically isn’t doing its job. This should be ignored, and while in the background, on the bottom end of your aural register, it should lightly stimulate your mind. Eno has clearly learned the secrets of the human mind and its interaction with sound, and Neroli is another exploration.

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