It’s 45 years ago that the musicians Robert Fripp and Brian Eno recorded the material which became the album, No Pussyfooting.
It’s an album I picked up in the late 1980s/early 90s and still listen to from time to time whenever I’m having an ambient phase. I’m sure I got into it and other Eno/ambient stuff after listening to – and being pretty perplexed by – Lee Ranaldo’s album, From Here to Infinity. I was hugely into Sonic Youth at the time and remember being shocked by how abstract Ranaldo’s solo music was. It took some reading and listening around to find my way to early Eno and No Pussyfooting.
To create the music Eno and Fripp set up two Revox reel-to-reel tape recorders as a looping system. Fripp played electric guitar which was recorded, manipulated and looped back by Eno, creating multi-layered textures. The outcome was two tracks: “The Heavenly Music Corporation” a fluid, rolling, deep piece and the contrasting “Swastika Girls” which is whispy, spiralling, lighter.
(Crazily, it’s claimed that John Peel played one of the tracks from No Pussyfooting on his radio show backwards – and the only person who realised this was Eno!)
I’m not sure that Fripp and Eno invented this type of looping music. There’s certainly examples of experimentation with taping and looping going back at least a decade before this. It does seem to me to be an album that points towards the solidification of Eno’s ideas about ambient music, though. Eno’s famous sleeve notes for Music for Airports (1978) describes ambient music as “an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint”. Something “intended to induce calm and a space to think.” Later, in his notes for On Land (1982), Eno goes further in attempting to create music that creates its own “psychoacoustic space” or “aural frame” in which mechanical and electronic echoes and delays are used evoke abstract, memory-woven landscapes.
Remarkably, Fripp and Eno’s collaboration still sounds very modern to me. I’ve just been playing the album on a dark, cold February afternoon. I’m in the house on my own watching the rain through the shutters stream down the windows. Forty five years away, Fripp and Eno were recording this. Incredible.
* I rescued this post from my old blog before it was no more. Probably written in January 2018 or thereabouts.