Although Brian Eno has been a strong collaborator since his early days with Roxy Music, he’s stepped up his bilateral work in recent years; the new millennium alone has seen the release of eight collaborative Eno albums featuring new partners like Rick Holland and old friends such as Robert Fripp and David Byrne. His most recent solo album, 2005’s Another Day On Earth, gave fans what they’d long been clambering for: Eno on the mic. But throughout Another Day, his vocals feel hesitant, as if he’d been laboring too long in the lighter atmosphere of his ambient work. With his toe touching ground, gravity seemed to get the better of him. But on his new solo disc, Lux, Eno has launched himself back into the firmament with ease—and with a renewed sense of grace.
Broken into four extended pieces totaling an hour and a quarter, Lux draws heavily on the moods—though not the elaborate, calculated methodology—of Eno’s solo debut as an ambient artist, 1975’s Discreet Music. Minimalist in execution, yet built around wobbly fugues of pinpoint tones, the cascading, pixelated hum of “Lux 1” gives way to “Lux 2,” a warmer wash of orchestral waveforms that rise and fall as if foreshadowing something more dynamic and dramatic. That slow unfolding of darkness takes on a keener edge in “Lux 3,” where Eno’s keystrokes mete out pregnant moments of breathless trepidation—and after a heavier, percussively repetitive note tips the scale toward an unresolved melodic friction, “Lux 4” opens up to let shafts of light spill through.
As with Eno’s greatest ambient work, Lux seems to complement something just beyond reach, absent but not unknowable; in this case, an earlier version of the piece is installed in Italy’s Great Gallery of the Palace Of Venaria. Removed from that context, Lux winds up being a haunting embodiment of one of Eno’s greatest paradoxes: music made for specific times and places that captures nothing, evokes nowhere, and is porous enough for nearly any emotion to sift through.