Almost 32 years ago, King Crimson lynchpin and guitar demon Robert Fripp visited glamour puss art rock strategist Brian Eno at his Maida Vale flat with the intention of playing around with a tape delay system of Eno's devising. Within an hour, the pair had recorded "The Heavenly Music Corporation", later released as the first side of the duo's No Pussyfooting album. While it's now one of those albums that's spoken about in hushed, reverential tones as a proto-ambient classic, it's worth remembering that Island records weren't too keen on Eno's association with Fripp, fearing that the latter might lead the former into less commercial territory (huh?).
Since then their collaborations have been occasional, but always inspired. Eno's sonic awareness and unorthodox musical approaches have combined with Fripp's ability to cope with anything that's thrown his way to produce some of the best moments in either man's work (and David Bowie's as well).
So there's some expectation surrounding this record, despite the low-key nature of its release. Though it's not really a retread of former glories, immediately you're certain that this music couldn't have been made by anyone else as you get sucked into its weightless beauties.
Eno's settings range from the celestial shimmer of Apollo ("Lyra") to muted, distant machine funk ("Altair") or the darker textures of the closing "Terebellum", while Fripp's rhapsodic, mournful lines wander through them to crushingly beautiful effect.
There's no doubt that despite his rather cerebral reputation, Fripp's playing can carry a quietly devastating emotional charge. Daryl Hall's likened it to the sound of the universe crying; until NASA actually gets a recording of such a cosmic event we'll have to take his word for it, but you'll know what he means by the time the CD's over. The Equatorial Stars is one of the finest things Robert or Brian have done in years, and its austere, graceful beauty left me literally breathless at times. A marriage made in the heavens, indeed. --Peter Marsh
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Robert FRIPP & Brian ENO The Equatorial Stars CD