Metropole Orkest / Robert Fripp / Andrew Keeling / David Singleton / Jan Stulen

The Wine of Silence

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The unique contents of this release are hard to divine from the cover, which lists three contributors: British progressive rock guitarist Robert Fripp, his longtime producer David Singleton, and composer Andrew Keeling. Together they accomplish something that has been done in parts before, but never in toto. The genesis of the work begins with Fripp's Frippertronics, improvisations that made extensive use of tape loops to build larger structures. These evolved into what Fripp called Soundscapes, which used digital electronics to replace and expand upon the tape component. This album is based on Fripp's Soundscapes, which have been subject to two further steps. First, Singleton, with Keeling's help, scored them for orchestra. This kind of thing -- scoring classical-influenced rock improvisations for orchestral instruments -- has been done by the New York ensemble Bang on a Can and other groups, although not precisely with the effect Fripp and company accomplish here. The second step is more novel: the orchestral (and in two cases choral-orchestral) pieces are then subjected once again to electronic manipulations, many of which seem to divide the forces spatially. What's the overall effect? The group of pieces as a whole is quasi-sacred, and all the overlapping textures build and recede quietly in a manner a bit reminiscent of the music of Arvo Pärt. If you like the Eastern European minimalists, you'll probably like this recording; if not, you may find it a bit ponderous, with too many undifferentiated events happening at once. But even those at the negative reaction extremes will find a good deal of interest in the possibilities this unique concept opens up.

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