Fripp and Eno: No Pussyfooting
Bob Burnett: my iPOD's random shuffle surprised me last evening while I made the 25 minute walk home from my local Metro stop. Up popped "Swastika Girls", the 18:43 cut that makes up side two of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno's 1973 release No Pussyfooting. I probably hadn't listened to this entire piece in 25+ years--no need to really--I wore it out in the late '70s. At that time, I was intensely drawn to the execution, technique, improvisational concept and most especially the lp side duration of each piece.
No Pussyfooting came about because Brian Eno took the signal of Robert Fripp's Gibson Les Paul guitar and ran it through a series of tape loops that were treated to decay, repeat, dissolve or layer. Side one's "The Heavenly Music Corporation" only featured treatments of Fripp's guitar while side two's "Swastika Girls" also included Eno-created loops from a VCS3 synthesizer in conjunction with the guitar. In 1975, Eno expanded the tape loop technique on his Obscure label release Discreet Music. The work with tape loops he did in the mid '70s set-up what became known as his ambient series---solo work and collaborations with Jon Hassell, Laraaji, Harold Budd and others.
When my teenager ears first heard this music I considered it abstract and open. Having never heard anything nearly as expansive or "like this" it redirected my aural circuits. Now that I'm reflecting, I'm thinking back to the series of music that became part of my listening timeline circa 1977-78; Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, John Cage's HPSCHD, the Obscure label (Eno, Gavin Bryars, Jan Steele/John Cage, David Toop) Henry Cow Concerts/ Fred Frith Guitar Solos, Miles Davis' In A Silent Way. I'd have to say Fripp and Eno were a big part of the inspiration to discover new things.
No Pussyfooting in 2007 terms has an Indian drone quality to it that I didn't recognize way back when. It's as if Eno's synthesizer and loop work represents the tambura-like harmonic base while Fripp's lead runs add the raga-like scales. It doesn't possess the "out there" qualities it once did for me--in fact it sounds very linear and melodic. If you've never heard this it's worth checking out. It may sound somewhat dated given the way technology has so greatly expanded the possibilities of sound manipulation and creation. For me, it'll always be a vital step into new directions in listening. I'm glad it popped-up and allowed me to reconsider it after all these years.