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Sid Smith's Postcards From The Yellow Room JULY 14, 2004 - by Sid Smith
FRIPP & ENO: THE EQUATORIAL STARS
It's been a long time coming...
Space is indeed the place when it comes to the new, long-awaited Fripp and Eno album, The Equatorial Stars. Clocking in at a refreshingly brief forty-eight minutes, there's nevertheless a generous sense of scale to be found here.
Fripp and Eno have always dealt with raw emotion much like a potter transforms clay into something beautiful and significant. As with their previous MO, the notes and atmospheres present throughout The Equatorial Stars are malleable; stippled, squashed and seasoned to form something more resonant than the base materials from which they started.
Yet this process of remaking and remodelling paradoxically creates something that sounds rather lo-tech and closer to the nub than is sometimes expected with this genre. Pieces such as Meissa and Lyra are both uncluttered and yet smoulder intensely. Fripp's formidable array of sound sources are paired back, resulting in something intimate and almost vulnerable in his playing that should not be missed.
For all that this is an album rooted in technology, it is actually the lucid connection of finger to string, and of heart to head that determines the strength of the record. It's personality and character transcending its origins.
Does it break new ground? Does it live up to the reputation of their previous outings? With over seventy years of professional experience between them, Fripp and Eno have nothing to prove. They've been there and done that, and most likely sold somebody the T-shirt.
On first pass may it seem understated. Yet the patient listener will be amply rewarded with an album ingrained with a surprising force and flow. The slow-burn ecstasy of Ankaa is vintage Fripp; nothing obvious or showy, just notes whose aim is true and that hit the target. Terrebellum is the keeper with a dramatic build up and fade to black that's truly gripping.
No doubt, legions of bedroom soundscapers will be twiddling their knobs in high dudgeon at the relative simplicity of it all. After all there's no gimmickry, shtick or stunt in evidence.
"Hey - I could do that!" they cry. And well they might.
But lest we forget, Fripp and Eno were there first, and on the evidence of this latest release they are ones who are still raising the bar all the way up to the heavens.
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