The Ship tells a powerful story. To tell it Brian Eno enlisted the services of comedian Peter Serafinowicz, but did so in a serious role. This is serious music, but has the hallmark of the producer’s wonderful spatial awareness, whereby textures drift by on the outside of the sonic picture – but still contribute to the overall ambience. There are only really two tracks on the album, and the first – self-titled – reaches a remarkable moment of stillness in the middle when Eno’s sonorous tones take over in a chant, before drifting away on the whisper ‘wave after wave’. A lot of this record looks to the past for its melodic inspiration, both in the chant and in the following three part suite ‘Fickle Sun’, which is classical in form but draws on what feels like a stretched out folk melody. It is one of Eno’s most emotional pieces of music in a long while, telling the story of the sinking of the Titanic but also with massive overtones for today’s society – and it peaks with a cover of the Velvet Underground track ‘I’m Set Free’, which is all the more affecting for its slow and deliberate tread. The vocals may take a little while to get used to, especially the author’s unusual and incredibly sonorous tones that go down into the boots of the record but are striking in their delivery. Eno is still the master of all things ambient, but even for him ‘The Ship’ is a magnificent and very moving achievement.
5 out of 5
Reviewed by Ben Hogwood