Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Fripp & Eno - Evening Star

Fripp & Eno
Evening Star


Released 1975 on EG
Reviewed by Lord Lucan, 16/07/2000ce


In the dubious wisdom of the writers of rock encyclopaedias the entries under Robert Fripp and Brian Eno never give this record much consideration. Usually ‘(no pussyfooting)’ is mentioned as the ground-breaking Fripp & Eno recording with its use of a tape delay system. ‘Evening Star’, which followed two years later, is then dismissed as a repetition of this innovation. The reality is that Eno and Fripp weren’t pioneering the tape delay system at all. The idea for this system was actually borrowed from Terry Riley. A lazy music press would have us believe that the only reason to hear these records is to satisfy a curiosity and that the first record was enough.

There is one good reason why this record should be reconsidered: ‘An Index Of Metals’. However this track is on side 2, so I’ll deal with side 1 first. ‘Wind On Water’ has one of the longest fade-ins I’ve ever heard. It’s as if the intention is to make you turn the volume up far too high. It’s all shimmering, heat-haze glissandos. The title evokes the music perfectly as waves of high pitched keyboard and guitar (although which is which is nigh on impossible to tell) wash over crunchy low end billowing sounds. This track then segues into ‘Evening Star’, which has usually sailed too near to New Age territory for my taste, but as I listen to it now it does have a beauty to it which does touch on some of Cluster, Neu and Harmonia’s repetitious meditations. ‘Evensong’ follows with it’s tape delay working at repeating a pretty keyboard line with disconcertingly awkward timing. Fripp’s guitar starts to ape the tape loop and suddenly the whole thing stops sounding like an accident. The last track on this side is called ‘Wind On Wind’ and is essentially a concentrated section of ‘Discrete Music’.

All the watery, oceanic and windy allusions of side one are contrasted totally by side two of this record which is taken up by the massive, monolithic 28 minutes of ‘An Index Of Metals’. The track fades in like one of the sides of Tangerine Dream’s ‘Zeit’; and it has much in common with that album, particularly side 3. There is something else at work here though, which I have never been able to put my finger on and which has held an enduring fascination for me. This track is demonically sinister. The tape loops start to build on each other and decay in a totally dissonant way with sounds which evoke the title, as they sound metallic in origin but it’s impossible to picture an actual instrument making these noises. We’re in a slow motion horror movie. A bad trip of epic proportions. This music is NOT ambient, it’s far too disturbing for that. Whenever I’ve started to fall asleep to this I’ve started feeling like I did when I was a child and there was something hiding under the bed. I didn’t know what, but I didn’t want to find out. This track fits Julian’s definition of ‘ambulant’: ambient with an irritant. This music’s irritant is the layering of notes with a discordance which gives you the creeps instead of evoking pillows and clouds. When Fripp’s guitar is recognisable as a guitar it is no more reassuring, as it is playing the soundtrack to your own creeping dread. The only other things I can think of which sound anything like this are ‘Zeit’ and the extraterrestrial bird on a threatening planet section of ‘Echoes’ by Pink Floyd (on ‘Meddle’), but neither have ever creeped me out as much as this. The track takes forever to fade out, decaying lysergically as it does so. I’ll never understand quite why this track does what it does to me. Writing about it hasn’t really made me any the wiser, but it is a piece of music I find strangely compelling.

When Virgin released an ‘Essential Fripp & Eno’ compilation a few years back I was hugely disappointed, though not surprised that ‘An Index Of Metals’ was not on it, whilst the patently very unessential ‘Healthy Colours’ in four exhaustingly boring versions was. Who gets these people with closed ears to do these compilations anyway?

‘An Index Of Metals’ is a class A head-fuck. If that’s what you’re after: go fetch!


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