Robert Fripp & Brian Eno: The Equatorial Stars

Not-so-hot on the heels of their ’70s collaborations No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, these two titans of English art rock have reconvened to produce a third album of superior ambient fare. Of course, we have come to expect music of high quality from the originator of ambient music and the legendary guitarist with King Crimson. Yet what is pleasing about this disc is the way in which Brian Eno’s gossamer atmospherics and Robert Fripp’s understated virtuosity combine to form a perfectly balanced and coherent whole.

While his work with Crimson has tended to focus on fret-melting explorations of rock dynamics, Fripp in solo mode takes a gentler, more painterly approach. Beginning with the method he termed Frippertronics in the ’70s, and evolving into the soundscapes he performs today, Fripp coaxes liquid, weeping notes from his guitar and loops and wreathes them in a haze of delay and sustain. On the disc’s opening suite of “Meissa,” “Lyra,” and “Tarazed,” these gorgeous washes of sound reverberate over Eno’s twinkling sound fields and somber, cocooning drones. Taking its cue from the track titles (named after stars and constellations), this music perfectly evokes a sense of drifting endlessly through space.

Things pick up slightly on “Lupus,” wherein Fripp’s fuzz-heavy distortions are nudged along by a soft, glancing rhythm. On “Altair,” Fripp—incredibly—sounds almost funky, as his taut chord patterns skip and swing nimbly around an irresistible Eno groove. Between the two sits the imposing “Ankaa,” on which Fripp issues sublime, serpentine guitar lines while Eno’s unobtrusive atmospheres throb and pulsate all around. The disc closes with “Terebellum,” a return to the lambent textures of the opening suite and a soothing, tranquil conclusion. Proving that mastery of one’s instrument need not equate to flashy technical riffery, the disc is quietly yet continuously striking, the perfect soundtrack to an interstellar journey.

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