Brian Eno’s ‘Lux’: A return-to-form album by rock’s quiet legend


Brian Eno (Martin Godwin)

With so much data foaming from our various iThings, the latest album from Brian Eno feels like a precious gift. It’s 75 minutes and 21 seconds of music that pretty much leaves us alone.

“Lux” finds its 64-year-old architect returning to the airy sound panoramas he pioneered with his 1975 album “Discreet Music” and refined with 1978’s “Ambient 1: Music for Airports,” a suite of compositions he hoped would relieve anxiety headaches at the baggage claim.

There’s nothing risky about Eno releasing an album such as “Lux” all these decades later. But as we sink deeper into the centrifugal stress pits of the digital age, Eno’s argument for a gently magnetic and entirely ignorable brand of pop music becomes more and more compelling.

That’s partially because most pop music is for remembering — first kisses, road trips, putting your tender heart in a blender, all of that. But today, social media won’t allow us to forget. Anything. We live in an exhausting, infinite sequence of micromoments, typed out on Twitter, snapped on Instagram, liked by the chums we’ve assembled on Facebook.

“Lux” is the kind of music that will take your mind off scratching those tallies into your digital prison walls. As pianos and synthesizers shimmer like little jewels in the void, “Lux” seems to stop time, or blur it, or bend it in weird directions. It has more brio than the new age music you might hear on a massage table but less fussiness than a nuanced film score.


Cover art for Brian Eno's "Lux" (Michiko Nakao/Michiko Nakao)

“Lux” also finds Eno showcasing a return-to-form vitality that other rock vets have been exuding this autumn. Neil Young is expected to tear into his blistering new album, “Psychedelic Pill,” at the Patriot Center on Nov. 30, while Bob Dylan’s latest recording, “Tempest,” finds him baring teeth that many feared had fallen out. (He’s at Verizon Center on Tuesday.)

Even if he’s the brainiac minding his own in the corner, Eno has earned his spot alongside these guys in the rock-and-roll pantheon. He first earned his stripes in the early ’70s, playing keyboards for Bryan Ferry’s Roxy Music, the avant-glam band whose first two albums will forever stand as their best, thanks to Eno. Sporting mascara, feathers and the boldest male pattern baldness in pop history, he gave Ferry’s songs an extra jolt of electronic sensuality.

But the man’s sartorial freedoms couldn’t compensate for his artistic restlessness. Last year, Eno told Stephen Colbert that he quit Roxy Music after a concert where his mind had wandered off to the laundry.

Since then, the maestro has made plenty of music for wandering minds. He developed his ambient experiments into a series of landmark albums and art installations, but ultimately made his fortune as a record producer, overseeing David Bowie’s “Low,” Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light,” U2’s “The Joshua Tree,” Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends” and many others.

In the long run, Eno became known as rock’s foremost thinker — and partially for thinking about the long run. In 2006, he released “77 Million Paintings,” a computer program of self-generating artworks that would take 4 million years to repeat itself. He’s also thrown his support behind the construction of “The Clock of the Long Now,” a time-keeping machine that will tick-tock in a Nevada mountainside for 10 millennia.

And while those two projects are grand statements about time, “Lux” is a little one that feels accessible, efficient and powerful. This is music that will make you think about how much time you have in this life and how you might like to spend it.

That is, if you’re paying attention to the music at all.

Chris Richards became the Post's pop music critic in 2009. He has covered D.I.Y. house shows, White House concerts, go-go and Gaga.
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