Monday, April 18, 2005

Random Records: Fripp and Eno

Craig randomly grabs a record from his shelf and shares his deepest thoughts and feelings.

Fripp and Eno: Evening Star (1975)

Statistically speaking, random picks should be randomly assorted throughout the musical spectrum. And once again statistics can be relied upon.
Robert Fripp and Brian Eno began their collaboration with No Pussyfooting in 1973, and Evening Star was their second and final in 1975. This is the better of the two, in my opinion, although the first may well impress you more given how raw it sounds, not too mention the historical context and how unique this music was to their pop/rock audience at the time. On Evening Star we get five tracks that are less "songs" than musical soundscapes. The technical aspects are summarized nicely for a lay audience here. To quote the authors (Malcolm Humes from North Carolina and Tom Boon of Reading, UK):

Eno is perhaps most known with regard to tape loops for introducing Robert Fripp to a system of looping two reel-to-reel decks which became known as Frippertronics. It's not clear if Eno devised this particular system or found it after someone else did. Eno almost certainly wasn't the first to explore the technique and probably picked it up from Steve Reich or Terry Riley. I've heard that Pauline Oliveras was using a system like this in the 60's. Eno was at least very familiar with Reich's tape pieces and cited It's Gonna Rain as an influence at his talk on Generative Music at the Imagination Conference in 1996. Frippertronics isn't so much a tape "loop" as it is a tape delay and looped signal. Conventional tape loops are cut and spliced together at the ends to form a loop. Frippertronics uses a reel of tape on one reel-to-reel and records on that machine - the tape runs out to a take-up reel on a second reel-to-reel instead of on the first deck, and the signal is played back on the second deck and also can be looped back and mixed into the electronic inputs on the first unit. This creates a degenerative delay, which with level control on the "feedback" signal can be used to sustain a repeating "loop" or to let it decay into the tape hiss and infinity. This system was used for the Fripp & Eno releases Evening Star and No Pussyfooting, using guitar and some synth, recorded in Eno's living room. Fripp later started using it for solo guitar, occasionally using pre-recorded frippertronics tapes to solo over. Fripp and Eno first recorded with this system in September 1972.

So, there's a whole lot more there for someone with a little more music education than myself. But I find it plenty enjoyable to just let the beautiful bath of sound surround me while doing absolutely nothing but lying there with the stereo on. Unfortunately, I don't find the time or have the patience to do this as much I did when I was younger. But if you have an occasion to do so, then this should be your soundtrack.

Where I bought it: Memory Lane Records in Richmond, VA.

Would I buy it again?: As I hinted at above, this is one album where given my current attitude toward recorded music, I very well might pick it up on CD rather than vinyl if I were still into Fripp and Eno. But the truth is, I'm not that into the ambient music thing right now, and therefore this record is more fun to have as part of a collection than it is to actually have booming on your jam box while raking the yard or driving to work. And if I were to try to listen to it while going to sleep, I would run the risk of annoying my wife (though we used to do that occasionally early in our relationship).

Sound Sample: Wind on Water


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