Fripp & Eno The Equatorial Stars

Robert Fripp and Brian Eno were early pioneers of atmospheric ambient music on collaborations such as 1973’s No Pussyfooting and 1975’s Evening Star, so to reconvene in 2004 and further explore the same outer reaches, seems a little like treading beaten paths. Results vary, but their overall approach tends to subtly synthesise currents in ambience from now and then. The first track, "Meissa,” opens with a bit of digital chop-shopping of the minimal glitch variety, before settling into a subdued but shimmering drone. The soundtrack to stellar bodies is a stately and deliberate process, not unlike the cartography that adorns the album cover. Guitar notes and synthesiser swells entwine and extend to describe distances and openness that stretch out in all directions. Only after the midway point of the album does Fripp’s craftier play make its presence felt with note clusters accelerating and coalescing into brighter bodies. A simple but dated beat propels "Altair,” which features a light "Frippertronic” guitar chugging along inside the synth clouds. The gentlemen get marks for austerity and avoiding the easy traps of current technology, however, it is this restraint that also gives the album an instantly nostalgic feel. Those expecting new ground to be broken will be disappointed, though long-time fans will not. (Opal)