INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Best JULY 1975 - by Hervé Picard and Christian Lebrun
FRIPP & ENO: THE REFUSAL OF CONVENTIONS
It's hard to tell if it's their music or their personalities that's so surprising. Both are puzzling but also appealing. Following a surprising French Tour, a conversation with these two unique artists attempts to shed light on their enigmatic artistic ways. The second act of this marriage is as successful as their first, mostly due to the surprising effect of its musical beauty.
A VERY STRANGE TOUR
When doing the wrap up of this French portion of the Robert Fripp and Brian Eno tour, we remain puzzled. The Bordeaux concert went well, but we cannot say the same for the other ones. In Saint-Étienne the PA broke in the middle of the show, unable to support the powerful music and sound produced by those gentlemen. The public was never informed; Fripp and Eno disappeared without explanation, resulting in the audience waiting and getting annoyed. Rumour has it, that the Lyon concert was simply cancelled due to a venue related problem. The second Parisian show was also cancelled, however its existence was always in question and the promoter's gamble didn't pay off in the end.
The only show remaining was the Parisian concert that was quite unexplainable for people not familiar with their work, but was at least able to stop the confusion in the minds those in attendance. It was a first for the Olympia audience. The music started by itself, as if the machines put on the stage decided themselves that it was time to begin. Behind them, a screen was showing undefined forms, reflections and color spots. An exact visualisation of the texture of the music. Two shapes finally emerged from the shadows to the front of the stage and were greeted with an ovation, despite the fact that it looked like they didn't notice. Then they started to play, adding new sounds to the soundtrack already playing. Its charm began to work, little by little as the loops began to superimpose, it was as if the sounds were stretching into the air like hallucinating protozoa. But while we were savouring this slow motion carousel, these curiously liquid chemical projections of melody and enjoying every small additional intervention by Fripp, the two men left the stage without warning and left the machines to continue to make their network of sounds on their own. The lights went on in the hall. Everybody thought that it was an intermission. The audience started to chat, instead of listening to the beautiful music still playing. So the physical absence of the musicians was enough to transform music that everyone was savouring into an unimportant background noise. An indication that the conventional audience couldn't change their established habits. Fripp and Eno had already decided that they would never be conventional.
After a moment, the room went dark again and with it returned our two mocking sorcerers. The enchantment also returned, guided by a strange cyclical movie, which showed the same image of horses running at different speeds and with different colours. Similarly, the visual element echoed the structure of the music. Some loops were nearly identical, but always slightly different. It created some kind of stationary hypnotism propelled by some sort of ample movement faster than that of its own inertia. It was floating music, like a dream of calm water. This music is really beautiful and unique to this genre. The music reminds me, without being specific, to the obsessive constructions of Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze of Kraftwerk. But it also has an additional aggressiveness and profound tragic dimension, due to the oppressive guitar of Bob Fripp, which adds another layer of meaning. Lautréamont would have said "It's beautiful... like the shaking hands of an alcoholic". Fripp has in his playing, something really painful and compelling, something that makes you uncomfortable, yet at the same time seduces. It makes you nervous and yet at the same time allows you to let down your guard.
But once again, Fripp and Eno stop the enchantment: they leave again. And then they came back yet again for a new start and later leave once again. This time they will not return. The lights came back on again, as if to apportion blame to the soulless machines that distilled such beauty. The public stayed until Eno's tapes gave up their last breath, uncertain as to whether the show was over or not. In fact it finished, just like it began. The concert played out in a new way that was not the atypical one with musicians on stage, but instead having the continuity of the music being able to play on without their actual presence. There was a refusal to follow conventions and a disregard for the public, outside of the logic of the experiment. The public merited some explanations and it was the reason why, the day after, Christian Lebrun and me, tape deck in hand, went to the secret lair of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno to try to get some answers.