Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fripp & Eno: No Pussyfooting and Evening Star

In 1972, on breaks from their respective bands, Robert Fripp brought his guitar and pedals over to Brian Eno’s house to see what kind of music they could make. Eno showed Fripp his technique of looping live music in real-time via two tape recorders. Fripp played with himself, so to speak, on a piece eventually dubbed “The Heavenly Music Corporation”, and thus, Frippertronics was born. A year later, they met up again at an actual studio with the same brief. This time Eno manipulated his VCS3 synthesizer for Fripp’s fretting benefit, and called the result “Swastika Girls”. The completed works, equal to two sides of an LP, were released as (No Pussyfooting).
While the genesis of this project may sound a lot like how John & Yoko’s Two Virgins came about, the difference is that both Fripp and Eno were much more adept at making something musical come out of tape experiments, and their project certainly would not have gone further than their own ears had it not possessed any musical value. Indeed, one of the most striking things about (No Pussyfooting) is how it manages to sound different with every listen. (As a tribute to its notorious BBC radio debut, where the album was played off reel-to-reel tape threaded backwards, the double-CD reissue includes bonuses of a sort. In addition to being separated into indexed sections for “easier access”, both pieces are presented in reverse, and “Heavenly Music” also appears a third time at half-speed. Only those familiar with the music would otherwise know which was which given a sampling.)

Two years later, the duo used the same setup for a series of concerts in Europe, one of which was bootlegged and eventually given an official release through Fripp’s online store (complete with anagrammed song titles and reproductions of the loops inspiring Fripp’s onstage improvisations). One of those performances, “Wind On Water”, opens Evening Star, an album of further studio experiments. Side one is lovely, even pastoral; the title track is a gentle blend of harmonics, arpeggios and fluid solos, “Evensong” fades in and out just as it seems to develop a song-like structure, and “Wind On Wind” is a preview of what would be the title track of Eno’s Discreet Music. “An Index Of Metals”, which takes up all of side two, is a decidedly more sinister production, unsettling at full-length, yet still fascinating. (The current CD separates the track into six indexed points.)
Fripp and Eno would collaborate many times again, but it would be decades before another team-up on the level of (No Pussyfooting) and Evening Star. The albums are essential for fans of either man, neatly fitting onto a Maxell for long drives.

Fripp & Eno (No Pussyfooting) (1973)—3
2008 CD reissue: same as 1973, plus 3 extra tracks
Fripp & Eno Evening Star (1975)—
Fripp & Eno Live In Paris 28.05.75 (2011)—3
2014 CD reissue: same as 2011, plus 2 extra tracks

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