Monday, March 5


While chatting online with a friend today about recording strategies, I was reminded of another Eno-ism: "An arrangement is when someone stops playing." This idea of reduction crops up more than once. Describing a Bowie concert, Eno writes that the best bits were when fewer people were playing. And in the liner notes for the extended reissue of All This Useless Beauty, Elvis Costello praises Eno for his ruthless application of the Erase button.

A few days ago I needed to test something in iTunes by ripping a CD. It wasn't already on my iPod, so I grabbed my copy of the Spoonfed Hybrid CD released by the long-gone 4AD sub-label, Guernica. Since I already had the CD out, I thought I'd give it a listen. Each time I hear this album I'm reminded again how it's one of my very favorites. I'm not sure I can say exactly why, but I suspect it's something to do with the arrangements. Each track is deliberately assembled from a few simple bits, glued together by plenty of empty space. You might imagine someone starting with fuller arrangements and then carving away all the extraneous material until this resulting album remains. What's left is a slightly futuristic sounding kind of chamber music, existing just outside the boundaries of proper pop music. The music sounds controlled and disciplined.

Speaking of discipline: I was also reminded today of the FFWD album, a project Robert Fripp recorded with members of the Orb back in 1994. Imagine the beatless, more experimental Orb material, augmented by Frippertronics, and you're there. Fripp has always been one of my musical heroes, which is interesting considering I'm not very familiar with King Crimson. I came to his work through his collaborations with Eno and David Sylvian. I was fortunate enough to see Fripp and Sylvian play a show in Chicago many years ago and the image of Robert Fripp playing guitar was etched into my memory. He walks out, sits on a stool next to an impressive rack of gear, and spends the entire concert totally focused on his guitar playing. This may sound boring, but I found it fascinating. Here was a kind of virtuoso musician I hadn't accounted for--not a wasted gesture or note.


Colin said...

Kraftwerk would be another example of such fascinating minimalism in stage presence. I'm wondering where you could start with King Crimson. I'm not acquainted with much post Three Of A Perfect Pair, before that I'd probably recommend Larks Tongues In Aspic - not the easiest, but rather marvellous and worth any effort you might need to expend.

Bruce said...


I actually made a special trip from Austin to DC to see Kraftwerk when they toured. I'd say it was probably the best concert I've ever attended. They definitely turn standing dead still into a virtue.

I've heard some Crimson, since one of my old roommates used to listen them. I seem to recall them being the one "proggy" band I could tolerate.

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