These days nobody bats an eyelid if somebody taps at a laptop or twiddles an oscillator or two for the duration of a gig.
In 1975 it was just too much for the punters who’d packed into the Paris Olympia to see Fripp & Eno. Having escaped the restrictions of their parent acts, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno were keen to present the results of a collaboration that first began in 1972 to a live audience. It didn’t really work – the second night in Paris saw the duo booed off the stage. Thankfully, the first evening was bootlegged and it’s this gig that occupies two discs of this historic three-CD set.
Handsomely packaged, painstaking audio restorations have removed layers of sonic dirt, ensuring the music really shines through. In a way, it’s a kind of audio documentary – we hear the gentle undulations of Eno’s pre-gig VCS3 percolating through the Gauloise smoke drifting up from a bemused and restless crowd.
When the players come on stage, the sound world they create is about as far removed from the dramatic extremes of King Crimson or Roxy Music’s showmanship as it’s possible to imagine. With the players partially obscured by a movie loop of a horse endlessly trotting around a yard, the event was more akin to an art installation than the traditional gig most punters were expecting.
What we hear are raw renditions of material that comprised the darker angularities of _(No Pussyfooting) _and the slightly sweeter tones of Evening Star. The music manages to be both beautiful and, at times, incredibly brutal, veering from contemplative proto-ambient meanderings to blistering the paintwork within a 300-yard radius of the stage and blowing the bloody doors off the place.
Complementing the actual concert, the third disc consists of the reels of guitar loops across which Fripp soloed. The pristine sound quality makes these worthy of release in their own right. Added to them comes Later On, the B-side of Eno’s The Seven Deadly Finns single featuring the pair. Long out of print, its appearance on CD for the first time makes the completists among us shiver with delight.
While owing much to Terry Riley’s pioneering work, Fripp & Eno’s albums had a much wider impact on the mainstream rock audience over the longer term. With King Crimson now back in action, would it be too much to hope that in a more accepting climate, Fripp & Eno might take to the stage once more? In the meantime, this essential package is a must-have addition to your collection.