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Robert Fripp with David Byrne - "Under Heavy Manners"

?Under Heavy Manners? starts off dated: a reggae disco whose bass sound betrays its age. However, we are compelled to listen on by the familiar clipped vocals of David Byrne, singing the names of as many isms as he can think of in the nerdiest voice he can muster (not to be scoffed at, as Byrne?s nerdiest is analogous to Aristotle?s driest, Woody Allen?s most anxious or Dave Kingman?s highest (home run)). And we?re glad we stick with it, because the bass fades away from the focal point and is replaced by increasingly dense layers of Fripp?s signature guitar playing (unrecognizable as guitar, like panes of slightly different coloured glass being superimposed onto one another).

And then when the bells come in, Byrne is released from his word game:

?Bells, I can hear bells.?

No one plays guitar like Robert Fripp or sings like David Byrne, and so it is not surprising that as a team they were able to produce something unlike anything else.


Six Organs of Admittance - "Khidr and the Fountain.mp3"

My friend Darren has been spending some time learning to play the solo acoustic guitar songs of John Fahey. In doing so, he told me the other night, he?s grown sick of listening to Fahey?s music. All the mystery has been taken out of it. He is too well acquainted with the songs to enjoy them, at least for now. So, he?s been looking for music to fill the void left by the absence of Fahey, and has as of yet been unable to find anything suitable.

Which of course brought to mind the classic question: if you are someone whose favourite artist is John Fahey and you are going to a desert island but can?t bring any of Fahey?s music, what music do you bring in order to satisfy your appetite for Fahey?

I guess you bring the early recordings of Six Organs of Admittance. SOoA, like Fahey, is a guitar virtuoso with a fondness for the solo performance without overdubs. Also like Fahey, he plays sad, dense multi-rhythmic songs deeply rooted in the tradition of early American blues and folk, as well as Indian classical music. Which is not to say that he is merely a follower of Fahey. It would not be possible to confuse the two guitarists. Whereas Fahey plays a dead slow aching swing, SOoA plays a faster, more straight ahead wall of notes; steadily alternating bass note patterns and simultaneous blazing treble solos.

?Khidr and the Fountain? tells the story in song of the Islamic prophet Khwaja Khadir who is supposed to be the only immortal man, a position he got himself into by drinking from the Fountain of Life.

Though there is something of Middle Eastern immortality in this song, there are also equal portions of cowboy face-off and Spanish folk tragedy.

Posted by Jordan at December 14, 2004 6:18 AM

It's from 2002's"Dark Noontide."

Posted by Jordan at December 14, 2004 1:20 PM

The Fripp/Byrne is guitar-synth pop with Tourette's. I can picture the dance floor.

Posted by John at December 14, 2004 4:40 PM

That may be the weirdest thing I've ever heard from Byrne, which is saying a lot. He's one of those rare pop stars who seems to improve as the years go by. His show I caught in August was one of the best I've ever seen.

Posted by Jesse at December 14, 2004 6:19 PM

That Fripp/Byrne piece is 25 years old next year! Incredible. (The bitch in me says, yes, incredible that everyone associated with it hasn't been hunted down and killed, but I like Fripp and would be sad if that happened.)

Posted by rodii at December 14, 2004 8:08 PM

To someone hunting a surrogate Fahey I would suggest Elizabeth Cotten. (That's what I use).

Posted by peax at December 15, 2004 11:26 PM

Byrne+Fripp used to be my favorite song in the eighties... o well.

Posted by david fenech at December 16, 2004 4:15 PM

Great post.

Posted by Justin at December 16, 2004 11:19 PM

The David Byrne/Fripp production reminds me of old Talking Heads!

Posted by Nik at December 19, 2004 11:02 PM

well, what can i say. david byrne has never been my favorite- singer?? and by the end of that track i wanted to really break something made of glass.. ism schism you say ism i say just shutup david.. aa aa aaaa. ;)



Posted by Anonymous at December 23, 2004 6:05 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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