- Brian Eno released Reflection, the latest in a series of ambient albums that started with 1975's Discreet Music, on Sunday, January 1, 2017. The title and conspicuous release date seem to suggest his intentions for the 54-minute recording. Reflection doesn't unfurl so much as ripple and resonate with a measured pace, keeping its pensive tenor constant. Eno calls it "thinking music"—or, more specifically, "provocative spaces for thinking"—and says he initially hadn't intended for it to be released. Perhaps after a year that he described as "pretty rough," he thought the world could use something made for self-reflection.
Following records like Thursday Afternoon, Neroli and Lux, which were initially written with external places and other projects in mind, "Reflection" feels like Eno's most personal ambient piece since "Discreet Music." He didn't conceive of it while bedridden in a hospital, but he did spend "a very long time" on it, writing, listening, adjusting, sharing and so on. Where "Discreet Music"'s processed tape loops layered their notes in airy bundles, floating high before fading out, the sustained tones of this music are deep, spacious and ever-present. Listening to it intently is like being in an isolation tank, in that its all-encompassing vibrations and brief melodic flourishes have a way of focusing the mind. Shivers of feedback surface and vanish like a thought, while subtle waves of drone mirror the subconscious, quietly coloring everything. A dark room and a powerful soundsystem could make "Reflection" a transcendent experience.
Eno's ideas for "Reflection" seem more modest, though, like encouraging "internal conversation." There's great value in such listening, too, something that lasts beyond the visceral sensations of sub frequencies and the energy of rushing tempos. Music that's patiently and thoughtfully crafted as an endless work of endless possibility in effect alters time. "Reflection" isn't just 54 minutes long—it lasts for as long as the listener needs to take a breath, collect their thoughts, unravel their mind, travel peacefully or zone out and get some work done. In composing a piece so well-defined yet so adaptable, Eno adds yet another page to ambient music canon.