What does it sound like?:
Unsurprisingly, it sounds like a Fripp album with some added electronics. Sorry, that sounds simplistic, and I don’t mean it to. The electronica is integral and to the fore. But looking back at The Grid – not previously on my radar – their 90s heyday suggests that they are happier working with more beats per minute. This is, after all, a team of Richard Norris and Dave Ball, he of Soft Cell. Maybe they too have mellowed in the last quarter century, but the pace feels like it was determined more by Fripp’s church recordings than by a frenzied dancefloor. Is there significance that the album names The Grid first? Do they have more fans who are more likely to reach out for a crossover collaboration? Judging by the press release (which I won’t plunder, as you are all capable of reading the Piccadilly Records link yourselves https://www.piccadillyrecords.com/counter/product.php?pid=138976), the genesis of this album was Fripp turning up for The Grid recordings rather than the other way round, yet any Frippophile will hear his fingerprints all over this. If you went for the double vinyl, it would be the second disc before The Grid’s more meaty rhythms come to the fore, but even here, there’s no hiding the dominance of the intervals that our Robert loves to use.
What does it all *mean*?
At the time, the distance between 1973’s No Pussyfooting and 1981’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret felt immense, but the perspective of 40 years’ hindsight views these groundbreakers as nigh on contemporaneous. I should think that Dave Ball felt very comfortable developing from Soft Cell to the huge playroom of 90s electronica and dance. I can trust Afterworders to know that there’s a lot more to Fripp than King Crimson, that he can be a restless soul and crave collaboration. The roots of this 2021 album are almost 30 years deep from contributions he made back then. The hook up all makes perfect sense.
Goes well with…
doing something else at the same time. I don’t mean that pejoratively. Don’t do the ironing or have it on in the other room while you cook tea. I think you would want to be in the sweet spot for your speakers to feel all the layers and flavours. There are some lovely sounds in here; what sound like distant clashing gongs at the end of Fire Tower are fabulous. But you just might not find enough here to sit and only listen for nigh on an hour and a quarter.
Today! 25th June 2021 Oooh, I love a deadline. Available in all the formats, including the inevitable pornographically heavy vinyl double album. Piccadilly Records and Burning Shed are amongst those who can help you out with supply.
Might suit people who like…
More likely to suit followers of King Crimson than Soft Cell, I would suggest. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed researching The Grid and liked what I heard. There were banjos!
Does it suit me? Some context is necessary. I have a long attention span. I would never consider Tubular Bells as background music. The shifting sands of the hour of Steve Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians enthrals me. Fripp and Eno’s Evening Star, especially the side long dissonance of Index of Metals is in the category of ‘etched on my mortal soul’. So, I am clearly in the target market. What we have here is nine tracks averaging out at eight minutes, which of itself would appeal to me, but I don’t think that there’s quite enough here to fill that out – not enough ideas, not enough variety in approach. I was encouraged by my first listen; opener Empire is chunkier and less subtly textured than other comparable recent offerings, and felt fresher for it, but this didn’t sustain through the whole set. I could easily fall for being a Fripp completist, but I stall with some of his latter day soundscapes and ‘churchscapes’. They just don’t move on enough, and recycle the same ideas. And those blessed intervals that I mentioned above. I couldn’t tell you the technical detail about them, but they are distinctive and I think Robert is just a little too fond of them. Hell, when I think of the breadth of what he’s done, I can’t help but feel he’s got stuck in a bit of lovely rut. There’s enough here for me to like, but I might need a couple more listens to convince me to invest in a permanent copy.