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Robert Fripp

Washington Square Church

Review by Gary Hill

These days the idea of people playing live with loops and other triggered backing tracks is not revolutionary at all. When Robert Fripp started doing it decades ago, though, it was unheard of and ground-breaking. This release captures a number of such performances that were recorded over July and August of 1981. I have to say that, by definition, this kind of music is difficult to write about as track by track reviews. Since that's what we do at MSJ, though, I have to do it that way. That said, this never feels redundant at all. Each piece has its own identity, and I think  there is a lot of magic here from start to finish. This set includes a CD and a DVD, but rather than videos on the DVD, that disc includes alternate audio options for the same recordings. I consider this a compelling and exceptionally listenable collection, even if writing about each song in different ways isn't all that simple.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Washington Square I
This starts tentatively, and it works upward to include lots of guitar soloing. That said, this is definitely ambient, textural stuff. It's also very satisfying.
Washington Square II
While still on the sedate end of the spectrum, there is a more intense vibe and feel to this. Some of the guitar work rises almost to incendiary, while still managing to fall within the basic constructs. As much as I liked the opener, I prefer this one.
Washington Square III
While not a big change, I would say that this lands somewhere in between the first two in terms of intensity.
Washington Square IV
Here we have another cool soundscape. It's again not a big change, but that's not the point here.
Washington Square V
The guitar definitely gets quite intense on this one. I'd say that this is one of my favorites here.
Washington Square VI
I like some of the classy atmospherics on this track a lot.
Washington Square VII
There is some particularly potent guitar soloing on this one.
Washington Square VIII
Another with some particularly driving guitar work, this one also lands near the top of my list for pieces here. I really love some of the angles of the loops on this, as well. Overall this might be my favorite track on the disc. There is a real visceral energy to it. It rocks out a bit more than some of the others do.
Washington Square IX
This also gets pretty intense at times.
Washington Square X
There is a real beauty and magic to this. It's not as invigorated as some of the rest, but there is a subtle evocative quality here that really elevates it.
Washington Square XI
At almost eleven minutes of music, this edges out the opener by about ten seconds or so to become the longest track of the disc. It gets fairly rocking as it works through and has some powerhouse guitar work.

 

 
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