[TRAVIS AND FRIPP - Live at Coventry Cathedral] This beautiful collaboration between Theo Travis and Robert Fripp is a refreshing approach to the Frippertronics and Soundscapes that Fripp has been doing since 'No Pussyfooting', a collaboration with Brian Eno in 1975, and followed up with 'Evening Star' shortly afterwards. These albums represent the true beginning of ambient music as we now call it. Each artist had his own unique take on this new art form and made many releases of their own interpretations on various LP's (as they were then called), and it's the kind of stuff one either loves or hates, and sometimes both simultaneously. It's never what you'd expect, but if you "leave your expectations at the door", as Fripp liked to state back then, you might actually be receptive to it, and "let it come inside for a visit".
Robert has been doing the 'soundscapes' thing since 1978, and in the early 80's, both prior and concurrent to his reintroduction of a new King Crimson to the marketplace, conducted a series of solo concerts throughout Europe in as many famous cathedrals as would grant him permission to perform in. I had the privilege to see him play these types of concerts several dozen times when he was living in New York, usually at the Washington Square Church or West Fourth Street Church in Greenwich Village. On other occasions, he would do a weeks worth of performances at Soho art galleries such as Inroads and the Soho Art Studio. It was usually only to an audience of 40 to 80 people, and he would play and then get up and tell engaging recollections of his illustrious career, followed by a question and answer period with the audience in attendance. It was truly a wonderful experience. I got to know Robert fairly well during this period (as well as someone can know this enigmatic creature who never lets his guard all the way down), and he would call to say when he'd be in town, leave our names at the door as guests, chat with us or invite us (myself and then girlfriend) backstage, and occasionally invite us to accompany him for dinner at Meandros, a famous Greek restaurant on 8th St., or over to Rumbles for espresso and dessert (he had a wicked penchant for caffeine and sweets) on 7th Avenue. It was one of the most special times in my life - and I don't exaggerate when I say I saw him perform soundscapes dozens of times, and it never got old. I even travelled to S.U.N.Y. College in Purchase, N.Y., a college in Long Island and 'Toads Place' in Westport, Connecticut, just to see him play. Obviously, I'm somewhat biased, but not sycophantic. This was a highly articulate and intelligent man (who fascinated me even more as a youth), too much so for a rock musician or to become as famous as he could have / should have been, and a contradiction in terms of a sensitive yet cloistered creature that bordered on being alien - he was like 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'.
This is an enchanting endeavor between these two, and Robert frequently takes a back seat to Travis' alto flute and soprano sax, and the results supremely rewarding for those who appreciate this type of experience. It's lush, haunting, ethereal, hypnotic, meditative, relaxing, pensive, soothing and spellbinding. Fripp's sounds are reminiscent of his work during the period in the 90's when he worked with David Sylvian, and occasionally even a throwback to the first two Crimson albums as far as his sound goes. It's sheer brilliance during the several moments when he does step into the light and utilizes that famous sustained sound on his Les Paul that helped make him a guitar god of the late 60's and 70's before he switched over to the Roland guitar synthesizer in the 80's.
This is more truly collaborative than most of his works with Eno, Andy Summers or David Sylvian, and we all know that far too frequently in music, democracies don't work. There's even a new version of 'Moonchild' from the first Crimson album that gets a nice reworking here. The artwork and photos are excellent and expansive, and the two sets represented here are gorgeous and bear repeated listening to fully appreciate. It's a new take on an familiar formula, with fantastic results - I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone bold enough to listen to something new, as well as to those fans of Fripp (even those who aren't enamored with his soundscape work), Sylvian, Eno, Harold Budd, Holgar Czukay, Michael Brook, or ambient music in general. 'Live at Coventry Cathedral'? By all means, "Get me to the church on time"...