Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Fripp & Eno - No Pussyfooting (1973)
Robert Fripp and Brian Eno were two of the most interesting and innovative musical personalities of the 1970s, but it would also be hard to imagine two more divergent temperaments. Eno was a flashy, kinetic wild man who, during his tenure with Roxy Music managed to steal the show from one of the most dynamic frontmen ever, despite not really playing any instruments. Fripp was a cool intellectual who sat on stool on stage while playing his guitar and was notoriously standoffish to fans. The public may not have known what to expect when they decided to team up, but anyone could bet the result would be magical.
The driving force behind the album is a tape loop system developed by Eno which was capable of simultaneous playback and recording. This allowed a performer to hear a loop of his himself while continuing to play on top of it, adding new layers and rhythms in real time. This was not entirely a new idea-Terry Riley had been doing similar things for years-but Eno dubbed the process "Frippertronics" and the name stuck.
The record consists of two side-long tracks, each containing a subtly pulsing backdrop over which Fripp solos extensively. On "The Heavenly Music Corporation," the mood is serene and Fripp's guitar sweeps slowly around with his characteristic warm tones climbing and plunging like dive bombers in slow motion. The effect is lovely and captivating.
Side two, entitled "Swastika Girls," is more active, with heavier focus on Eno's electronics making up the rapidly swirling backdrop. There is a lot more going on here than o the first side, and it takes several listens to take it all in. One of the dangers of this type of recording technique is the tendency for things to become overly cluttered and aurally confusing. I'm not sure whether that quite happens here, but it certainly walks a fine line.
Fans of either Eno's solo work or Fripp's guitar playing (mainly in his capacity as a guest soloist for the likes of David Bowie; there's little resemblance to King Crimson) will find much to love here. The latest reissue is a 2-CD set of good quality and a couple of puzzling choices. First, they broke the side long tracks up into separate parts for the CD indexing, which is totally unnecessary and arbitrary to my way of thinking. Second, the bonus tracks consist of the entire record played backwards and a half speed version of "The Heavenly Music Corporation." The reasons for this remain obscure, but I am forced to admit that the different versions are interesting and enjoyable, if not essential.