Fripp & Eno “No Pussyfooting” (Island, 1973)

To say this album is the birth of ambient music is misleading. (No Pussyfooting) came out 5 years before Eno coined the term, and several years after the sonic experiments of LaMonte Young and John Cage (amongst others) that had influenced Eno in his “ambient” experimentations. This here album and Eno’s great Discreet Music are his early attempts in making music that was “as ignorable as it is interesting.”

In this respect, (No Pussyfooting) is ambient music. It exists in two spheres of appreciation: active listening and passive listening. The quality of ambient music is measured in it’s appeal in both modes, not just one or the other. In an active listening mode, this album is incredibly rich, textural and hyperactive. It is ironic to me that Robert Fripp’s most frenetic, wild and virtuosic playing of his career can be found on his first attempt at playing “ambient music.” To the attentive listener, both of these long gorgeous tracks are endlessly rewarding.

Eno takes care of the rest, making it “ambient” and loopy and other-worldly, making it a good passive listening experience. This music, as ideally all good ambient must be, can function as decor or as architecture as much as a the colour of a wall or the shape of a room. This music can be lived in, without paying any attention to it. How many times in a day do you notice the walls are off-white? This album can play as oxygen for your ears. It is, however, contrary to the off-white wall, stunningly beautiful and hypnotic.

Historically, (No Pussyfooting) is a true landmark, not only for its contribution to the genre, but as cornerstones in the careers or both Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Fripp made use of the technology invented by Eno for this album (ie two Revox reel-to-reel recorders sharing the same magnetic tape, one recording with its erasing head removed, one playing) to create his own system of ambient guitar music he called Frippertronics. From Frippertronics, he moved on to more modern Soundscapes, but the point is Fripp never stopped being an ambient artist, creating his own singular vision of guitar loop music, strange and beautiful and totally Fripp. Eno, of course, went on the become the godfather of ambient music, with his own Ambient series of records, on to perfecting more studio skills to become one of the greatest producers of his time.

The bottom line. This record is fascinating, beautiful, weird, and totally unique, even when compared to other records in the genre. Fripp and Eno’s followup, Evening Star, was stellar as well, but sounds nothing like this. Nothing does. —Terence

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