The Equatorial Stars
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32 years after their Vanguard album NO PUSSYFOOTING Robert Fripp and Brian Eno came together in 2004 to compose and perform seven new sounscapes on THE EQUATORIAL STARS. Produced by Brian Eno, this album, whose textures and atmospheres from the heart of each track, subtly changing, allowing space for Fripp's guitar solos and sounds to emerge from the center, give Fripp & Eno the opportunity to redefine an area of music they helped launch into the mainstream in the first place.
So much truly boring ambient music has been made since Brian Eno coined the phrase in the mid 1970s that it's sometimes hard to remember this can truly be a vibrant music that's, you know, musical. And while there are some clicky and smeared sounds courtesy of Mr. Eno that can only result from modern computer software, this album is a return to 1975's lush, pastoral and excellent Evening Star. The duo pick up where they left off on this aptly titled collection of blessed-out drone exercises. Fans of modern ambient music, like the stuff that Kranky label releases, might wish that there was a little more "envelope pushing." However, if you view ambient music on the same level as any other genre (say, bluegrass) then this album is akin to hearing that genre's originators (say, Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley) jamming quietly on a back porch while the sun sets. And it's hard to find fault with that, or this here fine, deliberately unassuming work. --Mike McGonigal
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Not that this detail excuses the one-star reviews; any Fripp or Eno release heard with advance expectations is bound to fail. And there are plenty of those which I do not care much to listen to -- my fault or theirs, it's really two sides of the same coin. Robert's solo performances are fine listening if I have nothing else to do and can give my whole attention -- but that's simply not very much of the time. Eno, of course, is the king of "less is more", for which the logical end is that I don't listen at all to most of his later work.
Which brings us to EQUATORIAL STARS. Despite my above implication of further exploration, it's no more defiantly out-there than "An Index of Metals" -- which probably isn't anyone's favorite track from the 70s collaborations, but that still puts STARS within known bounds.
Not that the naysayers don't have any ground: it would be nice to have a little more diversity in timbre and tempo, the way the 70s recordings did; also, Fripp's guitar isn't quite so out-front as it was Back Then. But there's no questioning that they do, indeed, Get Somewhere ... somewhere very hard to define, to be sure, and rather alien to ideas like meter and melody, but no less successful for that.
Similar recordings: Eno's APOLLO, Ned Lagin's SEASTONES
efforts . To me the mood is suggestive of those in late summer I spent under a starry sky
with my telescope