INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Rockol APRIL 28, 2005 - by Franco Zanetti
FRIPP & ENO: THE EQUATORIAL STARS
Many years ago, it was Mario Luzzatto Fegiz in the Corriere who first applied the expression "nobly tedious" to a record. It came to mind - the expression, I mean, not my colleague Fegiz - listening to this CD, the third volume of collaborations between Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, inaugurated in 1973 with No Pussyfooting and followed in 1975 by Evening Star. With this I'm not expressing a judgement on the album: I'm only putting forth a general concept, and that is that this album is indubitably destined to have few listeners, and that the decision to put it on the market (it has been available for a few months on the two artists' sites) is courageous and merits attention and respect.
I know that you're expecting, if you know me a little, that I'll tell you how I was dressed and with whom I was attached when I bought the 33rpm version of No Pussyfooting. Oh, well: I'll disappoint you. I won't even tell you about when I was listening to Side B of that vinyl record, Swastika Girls, on an automatic turntable set up to repeat the passage of the stylus in the grooves again and again and again (I wasn't using the record as a background for taking drugs: I was conciliated with a tranquil Sunday afternoon nap).
But I'll take the opportunity for a quick chat about Brian Eno: a fascinating man, cultured, a sharp mind - so sharp that at times I feel that he is amiably taking-the-piss. In effect, the pleasant non-musician has constructed a reputation so solid (and so merited) that he could record anything, from the drone of his electric shaver to the vibrations of his microwave oven, apply an evocative/suggestive/literary title and receive ecstatic reviews. You only need to read the descriptions of this album: marvellously eclectic, elegantly teasing, a story-teller in the manner of a truth-sayer (or a truth-sayer in the manner of a story-teller, better yet!). Robert Fripp is another thing altogether: a man who never smiles, who always takes himself terribly (and excessively) seriously, one who resembles a mega-nerd who never lets anyone copy his answers and who always knows more than his teachers. The collaboration between the two is based, probably, on respect and the reciprocal recognition of their different ways of thinking; and so it's nice to discover that, at a distance of thirty years from their preceding mutual adventure, they have chosen to re-enter a recording studio together.
The result: fifty minutes, seven "songs" of electronically treated guitar, rarified, dreamy, hypnotic stuff (or trivial and annoying and repetitive, depending on your tastes) that I consider ideal wallpaper for any non-manual activity. And in the end, it doesn't impose too much (in the sense that you can "hear" it without having to "listen" to it), and it even makes you feel more intelligent than those who listen to chill-out compilations. So, let me put it this way: Fripp & Eno make chill-out music for intellectuals. In this sense, the press release that accompanied the album was right: "Fripp & Eno redefined a musical area that they, themselves, were amongst the first to publicise to the greater public. The difference is that, in respect of the era of No Pussyfooting, today there's an attentive public that's prepared". That's how we're fooled: because if we express perplexity at the fact that there's "a design evident in the construction and in the presentation of all of the album's tracks" (while to me it was beautiful all the more because I thought it was the product of improvisation!), then we'll end up looking like those who listen to Kylie Minogue's albums - or worse.
Ok, do you know what I say? As far as Brian Eno, I continue to prefer his time with Roxy Music and his first two albums of songs. With Robert Fripp, I like the first four records he made with King Crimson (including the much-maligned Islands, yes, and what of it?) and the two albums with Andy Summers of The Police (I Advanced Masked and Bewitched, in 1982 and 1984 respectively - never heard them? Pity!). And of the two together, I don't miss the music of their first two albums so as much as the titles of the tracks (The Heavenly Music Corporation, Swastika Girls, Wind On Water, Evening Star, Evensong, Wind On Wind, An Index Of Metals), much more magical than the titles on this record, which are the names of the stars of the equatorial sky. Did you know that Altair means "with you who flies", and Tarazed signifies "falcon that preys"? In terms of the music, I like it well enough, thanks (on the sixth track there's even a hint of rhythm!). But there are moments when I find it more entertaining to listen to Kylie Minogue - or even better: watch and listen to her on DVD.
TRACK-LISTING: Meissa / Lyra / Tarazed / Lupus / Ankaa / Altair / Terebellum