Roger Eno: This Floating World

As I listened to 1988's Music For Films III for the first time, I admired its adventurous electronic pieces (by Laraaji, Brian Eno, Michael Brook, Daniel Lanois, and others) but was struck even more by a little piano etude tucked into its second half. Said piece, the wistful, Rota-esque “Fleeting Smile,” was, of course, by Roger Eno, whose artistic activities have, understandably, long been overshadowed by the doings of his hugely influential sibling. Having a lower profile does have its rewards, however, one being the opportunity to toil away at one's art without every move being scrutinized. That's something Roger's been doing since his 1985 debut album Voices first made the general public aware that talent in the Eno family wasn't limited to one person only.

He has been quiet, though: This Floating World is the first solo work Roger's issued in nearly a decade. Dominating the release are elegant piano works, with a small number of more elaborately arranged productions enriching the release by adding variety to the presentation. Roger lightly brushes “Stasis Affected” with phasing treatments that extend like tendrils away from the repeating acoustic piano figures; a soft female voice subtly shadows simple keyboard patterns in “Empty Room,” whereas the glimmering ambient meditation “Garden” resembles nothing less than something brother Brian might have produced for The Drop. Even settings that appear on the surface to be acoustic piano only reveal themselves to be subtly tinted by reverb (see “The Last Day of May” and “Bee in Early August”). One final surprise arrives with “Out of Tune, Out of Time, Out of Here” when its piano plays like something Roger might have rescued from some dusty legion hall.

Technically, some, such as “DeeDee Alone,” resemble practice pieces that a piano teacher might give a developing student to play. Yet that in no way lessens their appeal; if anything, there's an unassuming humility about the material that enhances its charm; further to that, there's no denying the prettiness of something like “Silk,” no matter how simple or complex its construction.

It's well nigh impossible to listen to the recording without contemplating the degree to which Roger's music resembles his brother's. But This Floating World never comes across as Roger copying Brian; what more comes through is evidence of a shared sensibility, such that some degree of creative overlap naturally emerges in their respective productions. Maybe the highest compliment one might pay Roger is that, were Brian to listen to This Floating World, one could imagine him looking upon it as a collection he'd be proud to call his own.

December 2017