Robert Fripp and Brian Eno have worked together on many projects over the last 30 years, and their Fripp & Eno records from 1973-1974 are innovative milestones that at the time were extremely unusual.
Of course, Fripp and Eno also are likely to have had influences also. Eno cites Erik Satie’s music as part of one story of how he became interested in ambient music as a subtle form of wallpaper that one could listen to or just let be part of an environment.
The system of looping tapes between two open reel decks to create a delay loop is the fundamental system used by Eno in what later became known as the mechanics behind Frippertronics. Eno did this with two reel to reel tape decks and creating a delay system he could use to layer sound for live performances.
The system used two reel to reel decks with the left deck as a source for blank tape or prerecorded material to be used to overdub on top of, and the right deck as delay playback and take up reel. Changing the distance between the decks would lengthen the delay time. Eno recorded Fripp on deck 1 and while the guitar was played live the recording would flow to deck 2 and play with a time delay. By mixing the delay back into the main signal going into deck 1 the sound can be layered and the decay of the signal can be controlled for few or many repeats.
This appears to have been a technique used by Pauline Oliveros, and perhaps others involved with the San Francisco Tape Music Center, such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, before Eno started doing this. Eno’s art school background was inclined towards conceptual systems that would process whatever material you fed into a creative system, and Eno was heavily influence by some of Steve Reich’s tape phasing system. Riley had worked with Tape loops in the UK in the 1960’s and probably was exposed to the idea by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gyson’s looping experiments. Riley’s later work shifted from tape to orchestrated musicians simulating the kind of audio effects such as phasing that early sound engineers had discovered while playing with tape decks.
Back in the 1960’s there were no digital delays or flangers and these effects were created using reel to reel tape through multiple tape heads and various tape tricks.
Eno had used early synthesizers to process Roxy Music in addition to creating sounds, and processing guitar with synths and tape were a logical extension of that.
So, Robert Fripp dropped by Eno’s one day and plugged his guitar into one of Eno’s tape system experiments and the result led to a two albums of material in collaboration in the early 1970s, and many collaborations of projects in the decades since. Eno probably also processed the guitar with synthesizer and may be creating some synth textures in the two classic Fripp & Eno albums also.
During the early seventies these two artists collaborated as Fripp and Eno and released two albums: “Evening Star” and “No Pussyfooting”. Generally in their work together, Robert Fripp plays electric guitars while Brian Eno extends and alters the recordings live with multiple tape players and other effects. In 2011 an official bootleg of their full 1975 concert at Olympia, Paris was released through Fripp’s DGM Live label.
In 1994 “The Essential Fripp And Eno” was released, which contained some unreleased material plus the “best of” the previous Fripp and Eno albums, including all of the otherwise currently out-of-print No Pussyfooting. In 2005 the duo released an album of all new material, “The Equatorial Stars”.
Fripp adapted the tape system in the late 1970’s and did a solo tour with just guitar and his “Frippertonics” system and used the effects on albums he produced around that time for Peter Gabriel and Daryl Hall as well as on his 1979 solo album Exposure and on his band King Crimson’s 1982 album Beat.
More recently digital technology has made it much easier to delay and loop audio signals and Fripp does much the same thing using electronic devices.
Some recommended explorations for fans of Fripp and Eno might be Terry Riley’s “In C” and “Persian Surgery Dervishes”, Fripp’s solo work, Steve Reich’s track “It’s Gonna Rain”, composer Morton Feldman’s “For Samuel Beckett”, and some of David Torn’s solo guitar work and Tom Heasley’s works with ambient tuba, didjerifu and voice using very similar systems to Fripp and Eno.
There is a “Looper’s Delight” mailing list that discusses looping technology and which has many interesting musicians currently working along these lines.
Edited by ydebru on 4 Mar 2011, 11:51
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