An album filled with shimmering beauty and spooked wonderment.
Chris Jones 2007-10-15
While 2004’s The Equatorial Stars, by the most brainy duo in rock ™ was long-awaited missive after a lengthy hiatus for most fans, few of us knew that the ambient twosome had been working on and off for more than a decade beforehand. Thus Beyond Even (previously cheekily-titled Works Of Startling Genius and available as a limited edition of separate tracks or one long piece) comes as a very welcome surprise.
Actually to describe this collection of sketches and works-in-progress as ‘ambient’ would be a total misnomer. Yes, parts (especially those which obviously came from the same semi-somnambulant sessions that produced …Stars) are as floaty and bath-time friendly as you’d expect, but there are also (as you’d expect with anything touched by the hand of Fripp) a fair few unsettling moments too. This makes the non-sequenced version of the album a little easier to take, as the stylistic jumps can be, well…startling.
Eno’s instrumental work has tended more towards a beat-driven axis in recent years and this is reflected in the dubwise fog of “Ringing Beat” or the more Crimson-esque “Tripoli 2020”, “The Idea Of Decline” or “Cross Crisis In A Lust Storm”, where Fripp gets to spray that burning guitar all over the loops as in days of yore.
The other downside is that Fripp’s midi tones in places have strangely dated: an occupational hazard with anything that was once so cutting edge. The funky xylophone/singing bowl and breathy ethereal choir tones in particular. Often you long for the simpler Frippertronic days of fuzz pedal and Revox that graced No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, but this is still an album filled with shimmering beauty and spooked wonderment. Eno’s production adds just the right quantity of warp and grit, like filtering spring water through a rusty can. It’s 90 percent serendipitous. His soundbeds always inspire Fripp to give his best. It was ever thus on Eno’s own early albums and now, thirty years later, this still sounds like the work of people born to collaborate. Kindred souls indeed….