Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Songs #463 & 464 - It's TWOsday!

Song #463 of 9999                                    Song #464 of 9999

Title: I Zimbra                                           Title: Hammond Song
Artist: Talking Heads                                Artist: The Roches
Year: 1979                                                 Year: 1979
Album: Fear of Music                               Album: The Roches


Tonight, let's take a look at a couple of songs that benefit from the work of guitarist Robert Fripp. Most people know Fripp from his work with the progressive rock band King Crimson, who have remained active off and on (and in various incarnations) since 1968. But Fripp has appeared on over 700 releases as a performer and producer, with acts ranging in style from Daryl Hall to The Damned. Known as a guitar innovator, he has developed such (rather pretentiously named) creations as Frippertronics and the New Standard Tuning.

Together, the two songs featured in this post serve as a fine example of Fripp's range of activity. While they are quite different songs, they share a trait which is quite common in the music of Robert Fripp, i.e. intricate rhythmic activity within a context of nearly static harmonic progression. They individually showcase two of the more prevalent styles featured in the guitar playing of Fripp: the nearly robotic repetition of a single melodic line and sustained fluid solos that seem to pour out of his instrument.

Of the two songs, "I Zimbra" from Talking Heads' Fear of Music sounds most obviously like Fripp. Listening to the moto perpetuo guitar line that emerges at 0:13, one can't help but be transported two years into the future to King Crimson's Discipline. If you weren't yet convinced that this is the prototype to such songs as "Frame By Frame" and "Thela Hun Ginjeet," the kaleidoscope of melodies that appears at 2:03 should do the trick. But since this is Talking Heads (with Brian Eno producing), the song is presented in a nice neat single-serve package that doesn't suffer from the excess of progressive rock.

"Hammond Song" from The Roches' debut LP is a testament to Fripp's ability to resist precisely those urges. For nearly six minutes, Fripp the producer keeps the song clean and clutter-free, wisely maintaining focus on the preternatural blend of the three sisters' voices. The song is nearly as hypnotic as "I Zimbra" but in a completely different way as a seemingly endless variety of vocal combinations is presented over a syncopated acoustic guitar pattern. The Roches' voices are so identical that unison singing creates a phasing effect that sounds almost synthesized—it's really quite fascinating. When Fripp's unmistakable guitar bursts in at 2:08, it is a startling complement. Two well-placed (and well-hidden!) key changes along with the occasional meter change help the song avoid a sense of stagnation. I had never heard this song or album before writing this blog and I'm claiming it as a great discovery! Thanks Robert Fripp!!

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