ROBERT FRIPP – Music For Quiet Moments

DGM 2021

ROBERT FRIPP –
Music For Quiet Moments

Art-rock avatar morphs into a demiurge of daydreams and urges his flock to walk away from red nightmares and anxiety.

For all his existential philosophy and deadpan concert disposition, it’s not too difficult to imagine that Robert Fripp’s life can be frenetic, and his and Toyah’s weekly video mischief is but a mere fun-ridden reflection of what’s going on behind the guitarist’s stern countenance. On the opposite end of his emotional spectrum lay a parallel YouTube stream: starting from May 2020 and running for a year, the English artist used to upload soundscapes, accompanied by Fripp’s own garden photos, which gelled into the “Music For Quiet Moments” series and which, assessed together, revealed previously unseen links and, thus, turned into a complex unit of tunes. Compiled in order of appearance into an 8-disc box set, the 52 tracks of varying length, plucked from various years, have magnetic appeal.

While the casual listener may think that these numbers could be born during Robert’s downtime, rather than onstage and on the spot, almost all of them were willed into existence in front of an audience, when Fripp toured either solo, as part of G3 or leading THE LEAGUE OF CRAFTY GUITARISTS, although the 44-minute instrumental madrigal “Elegy” – spanning the whole of CD7 and including earlier, shorter cuts which appear on other discs and hark back to 2006 – filled the air in 2015, on the day KING CRIMSON graced “L’Olympia” in Paris, and didn’t end up in the ensemble’s repertoire. There’s quite a paradox: the long soundscapes, which inherently allow for protracted abstractness, have more action going for them than the likes of “Pastorale” – the box’s scene-setter and one of the recurrent, albeit always-shifting, motifs here – whose suspenseful serenity, pregnant with the promise of excitement, is increasingly nuanced, as electronic ripples and bass lines run across the six-string plane, yet never really resolved. They’re not shallow, no, but such many-layered epics as the nearly half-hour “Requiem” demonstrate immense depth, dynamic and melodic, driven by faux organ towards a diaphanous finale, and are able to challenge “Starless” – arguably, the most profound song in the veteran’s canon.

Still, even the smallest piece contains a strand of certain mood in it, so perceiving the recordings as strictly cerebral experience would be folly: no matter how pacifying they feel, the superficial new-age glimmer should not enter the listener’s mind on subliminal level, the magnificent glistening of “Horizon” aside, unlike substantial romanticism oozing out of the luminous “Promenade” where flurries of notes are pseudo-static – also a deliberate case for all of the balmily dramatic pieces with “Time” in the title, scattered throughout the collection and gathered en masse on CD8- and are a perfect shelter for a delicate groove Robert’s often possessed by. That’s why the silvery twang and quasi-orchestral passages of “GentleScape” create an illusory sense of cosmic fragility which will eventually emerge as robust matter, a web of loosely interwoven threads, and the vibrant tapestry of “At The End Of Time” looks retrofuturistic, the swelling “Affirmation” seems symphonic, reaching for celestial heights and infernal lows – as does “Aspiration”: an essence of Fripp’s guitar tone in the same measure as “Evensong” is.

However, if CD4 comes mainly comprised of the already familiar – perhaps, deceptively so – compositions, save for “A Full Heart” that scintillates the brightest in the crossfire of natural and synthetic sonics, as well as ringing bells and the punters’ handclaps, CD5 offers variations only on three themes. But these themes, first and foremost the bipartite “Strong Quiet” whose meandering amplitude is extremely expressive and Fripp’s tentative riffs lurk nearby, while the three installments of “A Move Inside” are majestically nebulous, yet they’re acquire tangibility as the suite facets clear up the view for the dyadic “Drifting Gently” to expand into a stunningly detailed aural panorama. There might be tempered fluctuation in the calm of “Doubt” and its ilk, but the oscillating “Shimmer” has something Wagnerian about it, and “Evocation” shapes crystalline twinkling into an interstellar crawl pass floating galaxies of “Time Calls” and soft clang of “Time Present”: two resonant cathedral towers no one except for Robert can erect. So when 2004’s “Opening” – the earliest document on display – fleshes out the initial sparkles with tectonic maneuvers, ignoring the wonder of this series becomes risky.

Given the set’s nigh on nine hours duration, delving in it may take an entire workday, and the eight discs can be indispensable for those who need to focus on their task without getting lulled by soporific background tunes, yet every CD is a separate trip unto itself too. “Music For Quiet Moments” could be considered a monumental work, if it wasn’t so ethereal, but since ether has long been deemed the quintessence of our world, this box must be thought of as universal brick of beauty.

*****

February 7, 2022

Category(s): Reviews
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