Blurt JANUARY 9, 2009 - by Keith A. Gordon


At the time, it seemed to be an intriguing collaboration between two of rock music's most interesting "artistes." The reality of 1973's No Pussyfooting, however, left many fans perplexed. The initial pairing of King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp and former Roxy Music gadget wrangler Brian Eno ended up being a little of the best of both and, yet, something of neither.

The experimental trappings of No Pussyfooting, recorded while Eno was working on his solo debut, Here Come The Warm Jets, would be the first steps by the future superstar producer towards the creation of what he would term "ambient music." Using what would become known as "Frippertronics" - a seemingly endless tape loop spinning through infinite delays - it would lay down a foundation of sound on which Fripp would embroider his spacey six-string figures and Eno would add jolts of synthesizer.

This, then, is the total of No Pussyfooting, two intricate and mind-blowing compositions, each representing a breathtaking exploration of sound and electronics. The Heavenly Music Corporation is the better of the two, taking many more death-defying leaps of faith, but Swastika Girls has its charms, particularly when Eno coaxes an orgiastic sigh from what sounds like an oscillator.

Fripp's fretwork on The Heavenly Music Corporation is simply mesmerising, the guitarist stretching out and taking chances, the resulting sound a terrifying mix of prog-rock, heavy metal, and outer-space pyrotechnics that would influence a generation of punters to follow. Accompanied by Eno's perfectly-timed punctuations of synth, the result is a glorious din. Swastika Girls sounds more laboratory-bred, with a colder vibe and more interplay between electronics and guitar wankery.

Legend has it that British deejay John Peel once accidentally played No Pussyfooting backwards on the air, the result of an incorrectly threaded reel-to-reel tape. The material proved to be as equally intriguing backwards as it was forwards, and this deluxe two-disc reissue of the album includes reversed versions of both The Heavenly Music Corporation and Swastika Girls for those wishing to relive the experience. The second disc here also includes a half-speed version of the former, a dirge-like forty-two-minute curiosity that reminds one of a slowly-poured, molasses-speed DJ Screw production, sans vocal rhymes, of course...

Two years after No Pussyfooting, the pair would create Evening Star, a mix of the previous album's Frippertronics (especially the twenty-eight-minute An Index Of Metals) and shorter, atmospheric experimentations similar to those that Eno would create with German avant-gardists Cluster a couple of years hence. Listening to the album again after many years, it's obvious that Evening Star, even more so than No Pussyfooting, was the precursor to the rise of "new age" and space music in the '80s.

Whereas the pastoral Wind On Water provides nothing but pure Baroque ambience, the brilliant, shining title track is a marvellous pastiche of gentle tones and chiming synth drones set against Fripp's masterful guitar imagery. Emotionally rich and hauntingly beautiful, the song is a one-in-a-million mutant hybrid of progressive rock and John Cage-inspired musical theory that succeeds beyond anybody's wildest dreams.

Not that the rest of Evening Star is chopped liver, mind you. Evensong provides nothing less than a blueprint for new age music with its electronic drone and recurring riff-like themes, while Wind On Wind is a blustery, baritone-rich thunderstorm on a spring day. The extended work-out An Index Of Metals provides a jarring conclusion to the album, the song weaving transparent waves of shimmering dissonance upon a cacophonous soundtrack of distorted guitar and squealing, albeit often melodic, synthesizers.

Less aggressive than No Pussyfooting, but no less inventive, Evening Star would be the last collaboration between Robert Fripp and Brian Eno for nearly thirty years.