When Robert Fripp’s Music For Quiet Moments started to appear with relatively little fanfare in May 2020, as a series of weekly uploads to YouTube and streaming services, their overall effect was one of balm. Moving through the digital ether, Fripp’s ambient soundscapes slowly drifted their way through a collective psychological environment grappling with the uncertainty of pandemic times. The series unfolded over a year, 52 weekly entries, each offering another aspect of an ever-changing same: Fripp performing live in various contexts, quietly testing out the possibilities afforded to him by music that drops the pretense of narrative and lets itself just be.
He has, of course, been exploring this terrain for some time now, going way back to the early 1970s, when a series of encounters with glam polymath Brian Eno led to two albums, (No Pussyfooting) and Evening Star, where Fripp’s guitar wove a web within Eno’s tape -delay systems. Decades later, Eno would marvel at Fripp’s seemingly preternatural grasp of the nuances of the system: “It’s very easy to get stuck in a kind of drone rut, but he was clever enough to shift out of one mode to another.” These experiences inspired Fripp to develop Frippertronics, a method that hotwired two reel-to-reel tape decks, so they were able to function as a real-time looping system.
Frippertronics became part of Fripp’s extended rig, making its first appearance on record on his 1979 solo album Exposure; he’d subsequently explore the modified terrain offered by this process across his 1980s solo albums and beyond. In the 1990s, digital technology afforded Fripp the chance to update Frippertronics and build a more mutable and expansive kit, now known as Soundscaping. Since then, the soundscape has become a fundamental part of Fripp’s musical armoury: leading away from the tough, abstruse complexity of King Crimson, the soundscapes are remarkably pliant and sensual. Their capacity to evoke an ‘eternal now’, though, always somehow connects Fripp back to the source, those early looping performances and recordings with Eno.