Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Fripp & Eno—
(No Pussyfooting)


Released 1973 on Island
The Seth Man, January 2004ce
In what was a complete departure from both Robert Fripp’s and Brian Eno’s respective and previous recorded forays, their collaborative effort “(No Pussyfooting)” was a minimalist experiment conducted with little in the way of ornamentation or traditional rock’n’roll. Without vocals or rhythm section, the two side-long pieces relied on a tape delay system where Fripp’s improvisational guitar signals were either sent into treatment via Eno’s VCS3 synthesizer and/or fed through a pair of Revox reel-to-reel tape recorders where the signal was sent off into repeated playback with an ever shifting time lapse that allowed for successive strokes of sound to slowly build, combine into overlapping or just decay and fall away altogether only to be overtaken by entirely new segments of sound whose trajectories are so broadly extended, their anticipated movements BECOME the movement itself and in the end: lulling eddies that never seem to end nor interrupt a very natural kind of thrall. But when they finally do, it doesn’t seem possible that they couldn’t continue unabated forever...In fact, I always want them to.

Needless to say, both pieces that comprise each album side (“The Heavenly Music Corporation” and “Swastika Girls”) are very small on beginning and end but VERY LARGE on middle, and both were as different from each other as their co-creators. But it was the conflicting elements of this record -- the cool electronic pulsing of Eno’s machine-led cadences framing Fripp’s sensuously heated and dense playing -- that lend to “(No Pussyfooting)” an otherworldly tone of highly charged sexuality that is both unmistakably aloof but passionate at the same time. Like the nude mirrored female mannequin posed in the far corner of the remarkable cover photograph of a mirrored room underlies the cool architecture of the music within. The contrast of the front and back covers (along with two further shots of the same room inside the original release’s gatefold that furthermore mirror each other into the album’s spine) resonate greatly with what Eno once mentioned years later in a filmed interview regarding his theory of ‘the perfect copy’ in art. I don’t recall it verbatim but it ran along the lines that the difference between a gesture canvas by Jackson Pollock and a painstaking, camelhair-brushed replica are, for all their intense similarities, simultaneously very different. With that said, it is the very subtle variations within the four photographs one is immediately attracted to, because everything else at least appears at first glance to be uninterestingly static: the mirrored table at which Fripp and Eno are seated is sparingly set with nine ‘French’ playing cards, a thin metal lighter, a pack of cigarettes and what looks to be framed artwork by Eno’s friend, artist Peter Schmidt. The same arrangement is duplicated on the two gatefold photos and the back cover (where the obvious change is the absence of the two artists.) But after you study the cigarette pack on the front and back cover and see it plainly to be a pack of Pall Mall, you turn open the gatefold to discover that they have been replaced with Camel on the left hand shot and Marlboro on the right. Turning to study each framed picture (which, of course are all different) with the one featured on the front cover you discover the playing cards have been re-arranged and replaced with others. And so on.

In fact, the sleeve photography of this mirrored room may be informed as much by Jimi through his song, “Room Full Of Mirrors” as much as by the nascent photo-realist school of painting whose accurate renditions of cityscapes of glass, mirror and the images that reflect upon them. As well as lending itself to ‘mirror’ (I know, I know) the conceptual nature of the recording itself: Two modified Revox A77 Tape Recorders with one spool playing back an original signal to bounce back from it’s one time placement as an ‘original’ into a succession of repeated ‘copies’ -- much like the infinite projections of the room as the mirrors reflect the REFLECTIONS THEMSELVES into a dizzying hallway of eternity. And the conceptual arrangement of “(No Pussyfooting)” is a further parallel statement: the levels of sounds diffuse and decay in strength as the difference between the ‘original’ signal and the looped ‘copy’ become a process all its own just by listening to it: whether you listen either automatically by sifting out the differences between their parallel sounds or just being locked within its near magnetic pull of repetition.

It’s easy to see why Fripp almost entitled side one “The Transcendental Music Corporation.” Because however tongue in cheek he may have meant it, it truly is transcendental. With every passing moment of its wide and slow moving expansiveness, “The Heavenly Music Corporation” is like a series of freshly broken morning renewals perched on darkness and hope, maintaining a pace that allows the spirit of improvisation to carry a spacious rhythm demarcated only by the varying interval of the reel-to-reel’s time lag upon Fripp’s echoed, fully-toned and echoed guitar lines. These play with the space between both the ‘real time’ and ‘delay’ silences skillfully, reliant as much on what is not played as what is. And when they are, they are pulled from a depth so great that when it reaches one of several patches of furious clustering it’s as though slowly moving clouds are in the process of parting to beam a fully blinding blast of sunlight upon your entire line of vision and into your head. “The Heavenly Music Corporation” is a continually intriguing and unfolding expression, and once Fripp nearly/almost/doesn’t paraphrase “The Star Spangled Banner” ala Jimi at Woodstock for the briefest moment it all signals a downward turn for the turbine engine-tones of his black Gibson Les Paul to shudder, rumble and collapse in the most slow moving and graceful manner imaginable.

The title of side two’s “Swastika Girls” I superimposed for years with “An Index Of Metals” (the sole occupant of side two of Fripp & Eno’s second effort, “Evening Star”) possibly because the title seems much more apropos, what with Eno’s nonstop and continually topped-up VCS3 tape loops of glittering jingle of gurgling tingle that proceeds unabated throughout its 18 minutes plus duration -- like newly minted miniature ingots of metallic hues sparkling as they fall from on high (but instead, Eno’s current interest in the more arcane aspects of pornographic imagery led him to the more “Night Porter”-informed name via a headline on a discarded magazine page complete with accompanying image that he found en route to the studio for the mixing session.) It’s more linear and agitated in feel than its companion piece, dispensing drones for a cluttered yet becalmed approach. By the mid-section, Fripp’s ever-sustaining fuzztone leads start becoming less sporadic and achingly strafing while as the manufactured looping just keeps on persevering until the ends.

A boundless album of fulfilled vision, and the most psychedelic impressionist painting I’ve ever heard.