Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fripp & Eno 5: Beyond Even

Robert Fripp had already pioneered a system of releasing seemingly random selections from the deep King Crimson archives by the 21st century, and his Discipline Global Mobile operation would soon make further economic inroads by offering direct downloads. These extended to various of his non-Crimson ensembles and activities, so a 2006 compilation titled The Cotswold Gnomes, credited to Fripp & Eno, was an intriguing tease.
Described as “a sequence of sketches, out-takes, work in progress and alternative mixes,” its genesis was made clearer when the music was released on CD a year later as Beyond Even (1992-2006). Those who’d found The Equatorial Stars to be less than thrilling might have been more pleased with the breadth of styles undertaken here. Most of the pieces have percussion, so it doesn’t belong strictly ambient pile. The first few tracks burble along, then for the aptly titled “Sneering Loop” Fripp lets loose with a nasty riff. “Timean Sparkles” benefits from no percussion, and is closest to the quieter parts of Evening Star; “Hopeful Timean” sports contributions from bassist Tim Harries and is even quieter yet spookier. “From time to time we hear some atmospherics reminiscent of Fripp’s albums with Andy Summers, blurring the lines further as to who did what on those particular albums. The Idea Of Decline” recalls the “juju space jazz” of Nerve Net, but the latter half of the album leans to the spacey. Even the occasional energy of the first half is no match for the closer, the utterly explosive “Cross Crisis In Lust Storm”, which features ‘90s Crimso Trey Gunn on what we’ll assume is his trusty Chapman Stick. (Fripp rated his own contribution to this track very highly.)
Modern technology had of course made it much easier for people who were neither Fripp nor Eno to create automated loops and textures; still, these veterans get the benefit of being old hands at experimenting. Beyond Even is a nice peek for fans into their workshop. (A limited edition package offered the music two ways: one disc separated into individual tracks, with a few seconds of silence between each, and the other as a segued yet still indexed suite of continuous music. Even the artists’ own sites disagree as to what “disc one” is, but the streaming version is continuous, so there you go.)

Fripp & Eno Beyond Even (1992-2006) (2007)—3

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