A legendary live Robert Fripp & Brian Eno bootleg recording known as “Air Structures” is now available as a legitimate release—Fripp & Eno, May 28, 1975, a three CD-length digital download, direct from Fripp’s DGM label.
Notes from the DGM site:
These show notes are written by long-standing Frippertronics expert and unofficial archivist, Allan Okada, whose help in the restoration of this concert has been invaluable.
This historic recording documents an extremely rare and classic performance of a mysterious collaborative tour from two of the most creative and fascinating figures in rock. It is one of the most rewarding live recordings this writer has ever heard. For any fan of ‘No Pussyfooting’ or ‘Evening Star’, this live recording is of epic significance and thanks to the efforts of Alex Mundy, is now also comparable in audio quality, by synchronizing the most complete and best (by a mile) available live bootleg recording with Eno’s stage tapes recently discovered. This tour also represents a turning point for both artists, about to enter new frontiers professionally and personally: Eno as an ambient music pioneer and Fripp’s re-emergence as a “small, mobile, intelligent unit”.
Here is the lead up to this 5th of a 7-show European mini-tour. Fripp just recently disbanded King Crimson at a point which many would describe as their artistic pinnacle. Eno also recently parted ways with Roxy Music at a similar juncture and then aborted his first and only extensive solo tour after only a handful of shows, due to a collapsed lung. Fripp & Eno live in concert? What would they do? All the shows in Spain and France were, not surprisingly, accompanied with unrealistic fan expectations, hoping for a presentation of ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ combined with ‘Baby’s on Fire’ perhaps? What this audience got was something entirely different. The programme was largely improvised and totally instrumental. Adding to the event’s unorthodoxy was the absence of all conventional stage lighting. The sole illumination was provided by Malcolm LeGrice’s colour saturated and looped short film ‘Berlin Horse’ projected behind the two shadowy figures on stage, visually mimicking the music. The result was an unprecedented live performance format, years ahead of its time. It was also mind-boggling to most of the unsuspecting 1975 audience, yielding wildly different reactions. Reportedly about half the shows on this tour were also plagued with some sort of major technical hazard, stemming from the venue, the PA or the duo’s stage equipment. In Saint-Étienne, the audience went as far as booing the duo off the stage! Fortunately for us here, this Paris Olympia performance was technically flawless and from a musical standpoint, incredibly inspired.
Starting with the pre-recorded primordial drone ‘Water on Water’, the duo eventually walks on stage. Fripp begins playing through the “Enotronic system” (since Eno, not Fripp operated the tape machines on this tour). It’s important to note that at this time, the mechanics of the Revox tape delay system was a mystery to the guitarist. This must have surely added a heavy dose of Eno’s “idiot glee” to the entire proceedings. Fripp moves this piece into uncharted territories with short volume pedal sweeps of lunacy before detaching from the delay system and beautifully soloing over the familiar backing loop of ‘Swastika Girls’. Very astute listeners will detect the unrealized main theme from King Crimson’s ‘Blue’ off the top. An intermission has the audience treated to Eno’s seminal ‘Discreet Music’ before the duo return to the stage with another improvised loop morphing into the now familiar ‘Wind On Water’ landscape. The sublimely serene ‘A Near Find in Rip Pop’ follows with Fripp soloing over a beautiful, strummed guitar piece (from the ‘Evening Star’ sessions) enhanced with synthetic animal screeches utilized months later on Eno’s ‘Zawinul/Lava’ track. Then just as you feel relaxed, Eno’s loop changes to something akin to a gigantic, looming dark cloud as Fripp hits the distortion pedal and fires off some solos of truly monstrous intensity. Eno gently takes the proceedings back down to Earth again by introducing the now infamous ‘Evening Star’ backing loop over which Fripp treats us to yet another wonderful solo before leaving the stage again, while ‘An Iron Frappe’ continues to envelop the crowd. The duo reappears for the final ‘Softy Gun Poison’ complete with tapes of sinister laughter and mysterious chatter (foreshadowing moments of Fripp’s upcoming ‘Exposure’), before leaving the stage for the last time, while (the then unknown) ‘An Index of Metals’ terrorizes the bewildered audience as they exit the venue. All in all, this lucky Paris audience was treated with the entirety of both classic albums as well as enough new material to constitute a third. As a bonus, we are also presented with Eno’s stage tapes in pure format including Test Loops from the sound check. What more could you ask from a live recording? Absolutely essential listening.