I am imprisoned in a high-walled stone concourse, or palazzo of some kind.  The walls and floors seem to be made of exactly the same type of material, a shiny white featureless stone that seems to absorb most of the available light, giving the atmosphere, if not a dim, then a slightly suppressed quality.  My feet echo as I explore the walls.  Occasionally I spy a slight alcove, sometimes a pillar, some minor decorative feature but no doors or windows, nothing useful or substantial.  The stone is otherwise seamless, there are no joins, blocks or tool marks anywhere I can see.  After a while of searching the effect quickly becomes oppressive, my mind begins to play tricks on me, alternatively switching off, or inventing features which aren’t really there; if I stare long enough at the walls without blinking, the white warps and changes until I give up and blink it all away.  There’s nothing here for me.

Which is as close as I can get with those word thingys to describing the effect Brian Eno’s 2012 LP Lux has on me.

Brian Eno Lux 02 (2)

Brian Eno Lux 06

Now let’s get a couple of things straight, Mr Eno as well as being an ex feather boa-toting sex God in his Roxy Music days, has a very big brain.  Mr Eno’s very big brain is full of extraordinarily complicated things that you simply can’t fit into smaller brains like mine – totally different operating systems; his brain sees things in 5D, I still struggle with long division.  Mr Eno has made, or produced a big number of my favourite LPs ever, especially his work with David Byrne and his series of four numbered ambient LPs in the late 70’s/early 80’s.  So what I’m trying to say is that I don’t criticize him lightly.

Brian Eno Lux 01

But criticize I must.  To my jaded old ears Lux is ambient music at its worst, well actually scrub that, there is no waves and whale song bullshit here, so Lux just got promoted to one up from worst.  Lux is four pieces of music clocking in at just under 20 minutes each.  On the back cover each track is denoted as a dot and matrix pattern, nothing as pedestrian as song titles here mortal!*.  The whole of Lux was devised to accompany an Italian exhibition of Eno’s visual art and the LP, is a Luxuriously** packaged affair replete with Mr Eno’s pictures and contains four prints of his work, which all looks like trees to me.  I rather like his art by the way, it has something of late-period Charles Pollock about it, crossed with the sort of decorative abstraction you find in pictures on the wall of upscale pizza places.

Brian Eno Lux 05

Shorn of the visuals^ Lux does not have much to recommend it, in my view.  I love ambient music, but it needs to do more for me than just glide on by, which almost all of this LP does.  There are some embellishments here and there, some low piano notes, a bit of gentle noodling on the glockenspiel, a key change or two, but it all strikes me as pretty watery soup.  I can detect nothing new here. The best sounds and passages recall Ambient 1, or even Ambient 2 but without the first splash of originality that gilds the experience of listening to them, Lux is a mirror image of them at best.

The track titles
The track titles

There’s nothing bad here, but I am afraid that Lux commits the cardinal sin of ambient music^^, the one thing it cannot afford to do, which is to be boring.  I am happy to accept that this may simply be down to the inferior size of my own brain and a consequent inability to comprehend this music in the requisite five dimensions, but I’m still left lacking here.

The lone and the level walls stretch far away.

Brian Eno Lux 04

587 Down.


*I secretly hope that the titles are actually outrageous obscenities in a language devised by Eno entirely for his own amusement one wet afternoon.

**see what I did there?

^I did try to hold a print up in front of my eyes for the duration of each piece, but my arms got tired.

^^apart from the whale song thing, that’s a biggie too.

27 thoughts on “Lux Inferior

  1. Enjoyed this one. Not the album – I’m not familiar with it and don’t have any intentions to investigate further (unless I fancy some colourful tree prints). I just don’t have the brain for this ambience …

    1. Sadly, I fear you’re right based on the bits and pieces of his work I have heard recently. About time the original Roxy Music crew got back together, in all the original gear.

  2. I do like Eno, but this one might be worth a miss? I can’t even describe what I like about some records but hate about others, I just know I like it when I hear it.

    True Story: One time I went into a record shop on St-Catherines in Montreal (it’s no longer there) and people were browsing but the speakers were emitting this scratching static and noises and, without thinking, I said to the guy behind the counter, “Dude! It’s eating your tape!” Which raised two issues: 1) I didn’t recognize that it was intended to sound that way, and 2) I said tape. Oh g-d as a concept I am old.

  3. Really enjoyed reading this, Joe. Loved the creative intro especially.

    I so wish we could sit with a pint of Wales finest and argue the toss about whether the whole point of ambient music is in fact to be featureless (thus rather undercutting your criticism) or whether it is like a key interchange with Ms Connection some fifteen years ago as I was spinning some percussionless electronic music.
    Ms C: There is nothing happening in this music!!!
    Me: (Excitedly) Yes! Exactly! But it’s not happening very slowly!

    1. Thank you Bruce. I think Lux just misses a gear change somewhere and is a bit of a revisiting of past glories.

      I loved your conversation with Ms Connection too.

      I take your point but I always think the best ambient creates a mood, a feeling or even adds a little gentle drama – Lux doesn’t for me.

      Probably just a byproduct of having a less than Eno sized brain!

      1. I totally love the concept of needing a massive cranium to appreciate minimalist music.
        But let’s keep this going…
        If it has features and drama (even gently does it drama) then, ipso facto, it ain’t ambient.
        Is it not paradoxical to complain about watching paint dry being as boring as watching paint dry?

      2. Umm, piss off?

        See all my debate team skills there?!

        I take your point but I’d argue that the best in the genre, many of which seem to have been made by Mr E have something that sustains the interest, this doesn’t. Now what that something is may be a moot point, but it ain’t here. If an artist plays the almost tedium but not quite oblique strategy then he/she/it needs that magic something else.

      3. Can I go for the ‘Piss off’ option again without being rude? No, damnit!

        No, in my view the challenge is for Brian to get his feather boa back on and reboot his young, sexy Warm Jets alter ego; rather than retreading old ground.

        I’m not sure why one ambient record works for me and another doesn’t, as always its a very subjective thing. My absolute favourite LP for the last 6 months or so is Biosphere ‘Substrata’, a beautiful, icy, cold ambient LP – I play it constantly when I write all this nonsense. That works, Lux doesn’t and I really hoped it would.

      4. Read this last night; Eno on his ‘discovery’ of ambient music, from a 1996 interview.

        “Why couldn’t we buy records that made this beautiful random mixture of things like the raindrops, with little flurries of things within it like icebergs? Listening, I had the sense of hearing the top of something, and the knowledge that there was more beneath it. And I wanted my music to do this.” [From Another Green World by Geeta Dayal, 331/3 series]

        So I’m wondering, were you perhaps missing that ‘more beneath’? Some ‘little icebergs’? And will you just tell me to piss off again?

      5. F— Hell! Well lookee here folks, looks like we got ourselves a (spits on floor) Reader! We don’t take kindly to your sort around these parts, swanning around with all your fancy book-learning.

        No – this Eno’s fault not mine! He forgot to put all the little icebergs in. He’s made plenty of records which have a ‘beautiful random mixture of things’ in, this ain’t one of them.

  4. “But criticize I must. To my jaded old ears Lux is ambient music at its worst, well actually scrub that, there is no waves and whale song bullshit here, so Lux just got promoted to one up from worst.”

    I like me some ambient music. Good to know which records to avoid from a noted artist.

    I had that Lego snake! A few of them came with an Indiana Jones set I had.

    1. I think my snake came with a Cleopatra figure – check out her asp!

      I love a good bit of ambient too, I think some of it can just be brilliant. I’d really recommend his Music For Films, or Ambient 1; just not this.

      I’d sell this if it hadn’t been a birthday present.

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