You suspect that when Brian Eno co-founded the Long Now Foundation in 1996, he was confident in there actually being a future for the planet – its art projects included a clock in a mountain designed to tick for 10,000 years, as an exercise in stretching our perception of time. But here we are in 2022, the world literally on fire.
Eno’s new album, his 22nd, is an emotional contemplation of environmental catastrophe. It’s as huge and enveloping as you’d hope, its undulating soundscapes suffused with longing and wonder. But there is a mournful quality, too, something heartbreakingly elegiac about these songs. There Were Bells was composed for an event at the Acropolis in Athens last year, performed on a sweltering 45-degree day; as Eno recalls: “I thought, here we are at the birthplace of modern civilisation, probably witnessing the end of it.”
Notably, these are songs rather than ambient pieces, and Eno’s voice is deeper now and more commanding, even as it ripples with anger, regret – flashing like a chameleon’s skin in flux. The gorgeous single We Let It In, which features vocals from daughter Darla, is a meditative jewel. It’s stirring to hear Eno sing again – these songs feel personal, intimate and urgent.