Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp is one of Britain’s most respected guitar stylists and has been involved in experimental music since the late 1960’s. His approach to composing is cerebral and academic, and while at times it lacks emotional warmth his contributions to expanding the language of guitar playing are undoubted.

artist:
Robert Fripp

country of origin:
UK

style(s):
Progressive rock, art rock, ambient, drone, process music, minimalism

decades active:
60's - 10's

essential releases:

  • No Pussyfooting [with Brian Eno] (1973, Editions EG)
  • Evening Star [with Brian Eno] (1975, Editions EG)
  • The League Of Crafty Guitarists Live (1986, Editions EG)
  • Show Of Hands (1991, Editions EG)
  • The Essential Fripp And Eno (1994, Caroline)
  • The Equatorial Stars [with Brian Eno] (2004, Opal)
  • At The End Of Time: Churchscapes (2006, Discipline)

Reviewed by Mike G

Robert Fripp is one of Britain’s most respected guitar stylists and has been involved in experimental music since the late 1960’s. His approach to composing is cerebral and academic, and while at times it lacks emotional warmth his contributions to expanding the language of guitar playing are undoubted. Unlike most rock guitarists of his generation who based their playing on American blues music, Fripp has studied the music of many different cultures and his playing draws from a colourful palate of musical modes and scales.

Fripp's biggest claim to fame is as the driving force behind progressive rock band King Crimson, which has disbanded and reformed several times since it's early 70's heyday. The music on his solo albums is generally more restrained than the abrasive avant-garde rock of middle and late-period Crimson, but still inventive nonetheless.

Among his best in the ambient vein are four Brian Eno collaborations. No Pussyfooting (1973) and Evening Star (1973) are among the earliest ambient works by either artist, some highlights of which can also be heard on the latter-day compilation The Essential Fripp & Eno (1994). These albums feature a tape-loop/feedback system devised by Eno which progressively builds up shimmering layers of sound. This is music where repetition takes on a whole new meaning and patient listeners will be mesmerised by the multi-layered textures, featuring Fripp’s liquid electric guitar lines and Eno’s discreet keyboard accompaniments. The system of guitar soloing over tape loops has since been coined by Fripp as “Frippertronics”. The Equatorial Stars (2004) is an excellent if unexpected 2004 reunion on which the duo explore further in the style, with the addition of occasional drum loops which add some techno cred.

Something altogether different is The League Of Crafty Guitarists Live (1986) and Show Of Hands (1991). These albums feature two different line-ups of The League, a “guitar orchestra” of around twenty musicians who participated in Fripp’s Guitar Craft workshops during the 1980's. The results are clean, intricate and chiming acoustic textures coupled with occasional Frippatronics that make for some wonderfully intriguing music. The original pieces range in overall feel from graceful renaissance music to rock and roll boogie, but it's the arrangements that make them so bizarre and imaginative. In fact these albums sound like no other guitar music on record and are a must for fans of the instrument, as well as a striking listen for anyone else lucky enough to bump into them.

Post 90's, Fripp's output has largely been in the form of live recordings, both recent concerts and retrospective live releases dating as far back as the early 1970's. There is a large collection of these to explore via the free downloads which Fripp has made available at his site www.dgmlive.com. Album-wise, his live releases from the 2000's are mostly new material, an outstanding example being At The End of Time: Churchscapes (2006). Recorded in five different churches in England and Estonia, the music at times sounds like a synthesist in a loving communion with cello and violin, or a church organ with tinkering bells, despite the fact that its all coming from fripp's guitar and electronics. It's richly layered, melodic and haunting. Perhaps due to the sacred setting, the album also reveals emotional depths rarely glimpsed in the music of Fripp's past.

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