Brian Eno - Sisters

by Oliver Rose

Oh, Brexit. Brexit bae. Let me count the ways…

  1. Brian Eno’s Reflection 

  2. Brian Eno’s Sisters 


Here it is then, victims – the latest in a long line of whatthefuckisms, delivered courtesy of our beloved Conservative party. Yes sir! As a direct result of on-going negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union, former glam-rock pioneer cum minimalist composer, Mr. Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, has released a second, eventless charade to accompany his previous, PearShaped-lambasted soirée, Reflection. Truly, it would seem, these are the darkest of ages.

Recently, I took up the mantle of reviewing Reflection. I awarded the record a very low score, attacking ambient music as a larger entity through the album’s adjoined single release; proof, I posited, on the potentially trite marketing of the famously minimalist and widely divisive genre. This week, its follow-up is released – a sister record, aptly titled, Sisters. 

Unlike Reflection, which was a single, 58 minute work, Sisters is divided into four parts of equal length – each is 15 minutes and 14 seconds exactly. They’re also all named after girls – Hannah, Irial, Darla and Anya. If it means something, it’s tenuous. And that sounds throwaway of me, but take a moment to consider, from the surface at least, what we’re dealing with here: extremely minimal textures articulated through four, near-identical quarter-hour hunks. If the argument for Reflection and ambient music generally is an experience of the whole, then just as with Reflection’s controversial ‘excerpt’ single and the pressing of the album onto the interactivity-necessitating medium of vinyl, track dividers on Sisters seem unwelcome to the defence of ambient… _just saying_…

Is there not also something a bit pretentious about naming the tracks after girls who could (ostensibly) represent a sister-formation to a record named after the abstract living process of ‘reflection’? Argue all you want that ‘it’s a bit of fun’ – there’s nothing here. That’s like visiting a children’s play-park where the only features are black asphalt slabs and a sign that says ‘take care when using the equipment’.

That’s not strictly true though, is it – because in amongst all this glorified white noise, there is the algorithmic app, Reflection. “As a result of the Brexit-related fall in value of the British pound,” Eno wrote on Facebook.

“Apple have increased the prices of all apps sold in the UK by 25%. While we always intended Reflection to be a premium priced app, we feel this increase makes it too expensive, so we will take the hit in order to keep the British price to the consumer at its original level. In other territories this decision will translate into a reduced price for the app. As a thank you to anyone who has paid the higher original price for the app, we are making available a free download of a new piece of music created with similar algorithms to those in Reflection. This will be available to anyone who has purchased the app to date and will be available to download until 28th February.”

Excellent. Tell you what – I’ll let you finish Brian, but first, let’s have some actual fun with this release.

In light of the Brexit context, we might then possibly regard Sisters as a dull nationalist gesture, given to Britons as an apology for their own magnificent lack of foresight – ambient fans the world over are offered paltry monetary discount (let’s be honest; fans of Eno already had this app) in the face of our mistakes, while we revel in the benefits of our stupidity. That comes of course, with consideration of the irony at play: ambient fans are most likely (admittedly, a generalisation) outspoken defenders of the arts generally. Chances are then, a large chunk of Eno’s fandom didn’t even vote for Brexit, but now directly benefit from it. The icing on the cake is that that ‘benefit’ is over an hour of, well, not much.

As if that weren’t enough, were you lucky enough to have the app in the first place, you could’ve just generated the ambient music yourself. So Eno just invalidated himself as artist. Yet, in issuing Sister, patronisingly reassured everyone of the elitism in artist-fan relations, by suggesting (through the official manifestation of his work and its distribution) that he handles the generative algorithm better than you.

I’m potentially going on a little bit here, but you get the idea. Brian Eno’s got a new thing out. A computer made it, not him. Brexit forced him to release it. You can only get it if you live in the UK. You can also only get it if you’re clandestine about your means – the download link expired on 28th February. It is, quite predictably, a crock of shit. I hope you enjoyed my crock of shit review to go along with it.

Au revoir.