Over his years as a producer and composer, Brian Eno's had the occasion to work with an almost unimaginably wide swath of collaborators. From arena rock superstars, to prog experimenters, to post-punk pranksters, he's had a taste with working with basically every type of pop and rock and experimental musician. Today, though, he's back with something special, even by his standards. Adult Swim's Singles Program has released "Only Once Away My Son," a 9-minute collaboration between Eno and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields, the shoegaze great and relentless perfectionist who's only released music in drips and drabs over the course of the last couple of decades.
It makes a whole lot of sense when you consider that when MBV first broke big, Eno told Rolling Stone that they were one of his favorite bands and that Loveless' closing track "Soon" "set a new standard for pop music." But still, given the glacial pace of Shields' release schedule—even accounting for the apparent progress on the long-awaited remixes and remasters of his back catalog and the fact that he's suggested that new MBV material will come out next year—something like this will always feel like a surprise.
The track itself is pretty special too, twinkling bell tones—not unlike the glittering sounds Eno's played with in his generative pieces over the last few years—adorn a glacially unfurling guitar drone that feels as lushly snowblind as any of Shields' best work. The fuzzy drones—presumably from a guitar, but also possibly synthesized, you never really know with these guys—recall the pillowy comforts of a number of shoegaze-leaning ambient acts, like Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's distorted yawns or the gauze-and-steel-wool guitar entanglements of that great High Aura'd and Mike Shiflet album from a few years ago. It's not the pop mutation that Eno first heard in Shields' work, but it shows the pair's prowess for deceptively cavernous sound design, pouring on new layers in oozy swaths that feel as heavy and comforting as a sensory deprivation tank the size of a great lake. Needless to say, you'll want to listen.
This surprise release follows Eno's album and (amazing) generative piece Reflection earlier this year. Shields is set to play at Sigur Rós' festival in Iceland in December, and his bio on the site for that fest suggests that new MBV music might be coming in 2018.
Colin Joyce talks more about all sorts of ambient music on Twitter.