Switched On – Roger Eno: The Turning Year (Deutsche Grammophon)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Roger Eno has been recording music for nearly 40 years. We first heard from him in the form of a shared credit with brother Brian and Daniel Lanois in their Apollo soundtrack, after which he wrote a series of albums for the revered All Saints Records, either in a solo capacity, in collaboration with the likes of Kate St John or Peter Hammill, or as part of ambient supergroup Channel Light Vessel.

Now he has moved to Deutsche Grammophon, Eno is taking the chance to assess some of his solo work while making new compositions too. He describes The Turning Year as, “A collection of short stories or photographs of individual scenes, each with its own character but somehow closely related to the other”. It is an album of observation, describing a natural cycle but also effectively documenting his own musical evolution. For example the oldest work, Stars and Wheels, is a solo organ piece of 20+ years, but was re-imagined for this album as Roger worked with producer Christian Badzura.

What’s the music like?

Eno is a consistent composer, and his brand of pastoral ambience is very easy on the ear but surprisingly difficult to imitate. The Turning Year captures his voice beautifully, unfolding at an easy pace. The creation of mood takes greater importance than that of melody, but the two nonetheless work closely together, with simple phrases that undergo development to produce music of subtly powerful feeling.

It is to Eno’s credit that he never crosses the line into sugary sentiment. Right from the start, the evocative A Place We Once Walked is attractively coloured and slightly wistful in its contemplation. The title track has a greater sense of purpose, while Bells is deeply personal, its slow piano revealing intimate thoughts and designs. On The Horizon is notable for a really nice clarinet colouring, while a slight chill lies in store on the autumnal Something Made Out Of Nothing.

Stars and Wheels is rather beautiful in its new clothing, panning out with some remote sounds that at the same time are extremely comforting, recreating the feeling Apollo gave of travelling slowly through deep space.

Does it all work?

Yes. Eno really flourishes in this company, and the scoring really does his keyboard-sourced music a good deal of favours.

Is it recommended?

It is. Although arguably Roger Eno’s best work remains in his earlier albums for All Saints, the move to Deutsche Grammophon has really given him the opportunity to blossom, a chance he is taking with both hands.



There are several options for purchasing and streaming The Turning Year, which you can explore here

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