Thrang illustrates the technical virtuosity of Robert Fripp's League of Gentlemen without ever creating truly engaging music. This edition of the band features guitarist Fripp, bassist and former Gang of Four member Sara Lee, drummer Johnny TooBad, and ex-XTC and Shriekback member Barry Andrews on organ. Recorded live on a small club tour, the music does have the spontaneous spark of improvised music, but frequently the songs just sound like a showcase for their talents, not as individual pieces of music. Fripp can play nearly anything – he runs through spiky punk, prog-rock, new wave pop, dance and rock & roll, with flair and expertise.
Robert Fripp's beautiful but brief compilation, Pie Jesu, features material from A Blessing of Tears and The Gates of Paradise; the CD acts as an appealing, accessible introduction to his contemporary Frippertronics, which Fripp appropriately terms "Soundscapes." The music, created entirely from guitar and effects, including loops, delay, and repetition, is easy to consume and digest – a very comfortable, tranquil, flowing sound, somewhat different from his '70s Frippertronics excursions. While some critics have inappropriately termed/described his Soundscapes series as new age music, it is far from it. Fripp has been experimenting with these sounds through a variety of structures and presentations for more than 25 years.
Robert Fripp's "1999" CD from 1994 was released during a time when the legendary guitarist was making a major comeback. King Crimson had returned after a decade-long absence and Fripp re-emerged with his first solo performances in almost as long. 1994 also marked the birth of Fripp's 'soundscaping' technique which was and still is an extension of his 'Frippertronic' experiments of the 1970's and '80's. Instead of using two tape machines as had been the norm with 'Frippertronics', Soundscapes utilized digital technology and guitar-synthesizers to create and loop the endless mass of sound created by Fripp from his guitar. The idea was not a new one but the sound definitely was.
God Save the King is actually a split release and/or a Robert Fripp compilation, depending on how you look at it. In 1980, Robert Fripp released something of a split disc himself, called God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners, consisting of a side of Frippertronics and a side of Discotronics, the latter being Frippertronics with a "dance-oriented" (according to Fripp) rhythm section. Also in 1980, Fripp formed a new group, borrowing the name from his early-'60s band, the League of Gentlemen.
Fusing the talents of Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, and the California Guitar Trio, you'd be wrong to assume that The Bridge Between is a boring album of guitar aerobics for guitar enthusiasts. This is a wonderful piece of work. Its most dubious attribute is to sometimes descend into Sky (the Anglo-Australian outfit formed by John Williams, Francis Monkman etc) territory in its medieval harpsichord delivery ("Passacaglia," "Contrapunctus"). However "Kanon Power" and standouts "Bicycling to Afghanistan" and "Blockhead" are fretboard knitted excellence. Unfortunately, the latter two are separated by a five-minute downbeat – "Blue" – and the set is spoiled by a near-13-minute endgame "Threnody for Souls in Torment," which would be better placed elsewhere. None the less, you can always hit the stop button after "Passacaglia" or better, stick "Afghan" and "Blockhead" on repeat!
Fripp continues his Soundscape series with this typically evocative piece. As with his other work of this period, the theme touches on devotional and spiritual matters, with Fripp painting challenging and solitary impressions with "Frippertronic" brushstrokes. The new age set will most likely balk at his more dissonant passages, but King Crimson fans and those with a taste for the unusual will delight in his ascetic excess.
After rehearsals in New York with John Wetton and Michael Walden in 1977 had finished, Robert Fripp continued to work on and refine material for what would become Exposure with Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta. Having worked with the pair previously with Peter Gabriel in both the studio and on stage the previous year, there’s an easy fluency between the players here. That could of course also be the result of the material here being more formed and developed than the previous Exposure rehearsals. While some of these pieces are familiar we get to hear them in either their raw state such as the new-to-these-ears Slow Stomp, or, as in the case of You Burn Me Up, moving towards a finished form that’s instantly recognisable.
When Robert Fripp is away from King Crimson, truly magical things come from his guitar. In a solo context, Fripp presents Soundscapes, built on the tradition of Frippertronics, a mode of musical expression he pioneered with Brian Eno over the course of two albums in the 1970s, No Pussyfooting and Evening Star. Those early albums relied on actual physical loops of tape, adding new elements with each repetition. Such limitations no longer exist. Working here in the realm of one guitar, and many, many effects processors, Fripp produces tones and textures that one would not assume are coming from a guitar at all.
As the League head north, possibly chastened by the previous evening’s encounter with a mouthy fan in London, there’s only a rather fleeting stage announcement from Fripp tonight. There’s a business-like feel to the concert which is not to say that it’s in any way deficient or lacking. Rather, the band maintain a tight focus on the notes perhaps rather than it’s spirit. Major hits are scored with Hepataparaparshinokh and the wild-card sorties that are Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx I & II have the effect of bulldozing aside any doubts or worries about such matters.
Arguably one of the most anticipated downloads on DGMlive, time and space seem to be a movable feast on this the last date of the Soundscapes Do Dixie tour. Playing in a venue where Chuck Berry struts his stuff on a monthly basis, Fripp’s past and present coalescence into an event and performance which he describes as possessing “resonance.” Having a good crowd must’ve been something to do with it. “Probably the best audience of the tour: generous, supportive, attentive. Even, with a noticeable proportion of female women lady persons present” recorded Robert in his diary.