INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
BBC SEPTEMBER 29, 2008 - by Chris Jones
FRIPP & ENO: NO PUSSYFOOTING / EVENING STAR
It all seems so simple now. It's 1972 and art school boffin and systems music fan, Brian Eno, not entirely happy with his role as preening glam peacock with Roxy Music, is investigating what can be done with two Revox reel-to-reel tape recorders. Linking them means that a signal fed in comes back a few seconds later at a slightly lower level. By controlling the speed and level of input he can build up loops, overdubbing anything he wants on top. Rightly perceiving that mildly distorted, sustained and ringing Les Paul lines would be just the thing to use as the basis for these atmospherics, he puts in a swift call to King Crimson guitarist, Robert Fripp. After three days, (with a lengthy gap in the middle) and some extra mastering two side-long tracks emerge: The Heavenly Music Corporation and Swastika Girls. They're droning, floating pieces, shot through at times with Fripp's burning lead. And they're beautiful.
Coming at the same time as Eno's oddball solo album, Here Come The Warm Jets, this music was at odds with the persona he'd earned with Roxy. Rock critics of the time were perplexed; most of them not really having chanced upon either Terry Riley or even John Cage.
These days, many cite this as the beginnings of Eno's foray into what he termed 'ambient'. Yet it was his later work with synthesizers and piano, especially on his Discreet Music, where he truly began down that road. Some of this music appears on the duo's follow up to No Pussyfooting, Evening Star. It's also assembled from live work (Wind On Water) and more of what Fripp was later to term 'Frippertronics'.
While the album's first side stands as some of the pair's most enduring work, side two's An Index Of Metals is slightly more problematic, if only in the purpose to which such music might serve. Whereas Wind On Wind (the piece that preceded Discreet Music, with Fripp soloing over Brian's synths) or the title track with its chiming harmonics could easily accompany just about any footage of, say, nature at its most tranquil, this piece with its haunted electronics, decayed loops and groaning low notes is far more industrial. This is still beauty, but of a far bleaker and disturbing kind. Filled with unease and not for the faint-hearted.
Both of these albums come beautifully repackaged, yet No Pussyfooting has the real treats for long-time fans. A limited edition has a bonus disc of work in progress and also a 'half speed' version of The Heavenly Music Corporation, famously stumbled across when someone played it at half speed on the radio. Both stand as major works of the late twentieth century, growing in importance each day. In a word: essential.