Hot on the heels of last years critically acclaimed release Flatlands, Roger Eno (brother of legendary art-rock pioneer Brian Eno) has teamed up with UK techno/dance music wizard Lol Hammond (of Drum Club and Girl Eats Boy) to create Damage, a unique minimalist album that defies easy categorization. Eno, who began his profession composition career teamed with his brother for the Apollo soundtrack and has garnered such credits as Dune and 9 ½ Weeks, is known for his use of heavily processed piano. This album is no exception. The music is ambient, ethereal at times, and impressionistic. The elongated chords stretch through time, slowly changing and morphing to create new variations on the subtle themes within. The influence of Erik Satie upon the music of Eno is easily seen is such tracks as "Sky Becomes A Loop" where a single, whispered loop is repeated against a relaxed backdrop of strings, effected piano, and percussion. "Gerrard St" is beautiful miniature (only one minute long) that creates the feeling of being on a foggy London street in the early morning before life begins. I found the best part of the album to be the three song cycle starting with "Room Without Lights", a tranquil piano tone poem, continuing to "Lose That Skin" with it's detuned piano and haunting melody, and ending on "Blue Kind of Drug" which is a dreamy, hazy piece with tinges of ominous piano. The three seem to be a continual piano tone poem, containing easily recognized melodies (for a minimalist piece) and a good balance of form, betraying Eno's earlier training as a music therapist. As with all minimalist music, it takes multiple listens to reveal the composers intent and to hear the slight mutations in melody and form that create the underlying tension and resolution. Or, instead of studying the music, you can sit back and let the waves of sound wash over you and draw you into their hypnotic clutches.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, May 1999.