Sunday, February 10, 2019

Robert Fripp - 1995 "A Blessing of Tears" - Soundscapes Vol. 2 - Live

When Robert Fripp's mother passed away in 1993, he chose the new age sounds of his soundscape series to serve as a tribute to her. The liner notes in the CD booklet contain a beautifully written eulogy (by Fripp himself) about the interesting life of his mother Edie. Fripp does an excellent job of conveying his grief in the eight selections that comprise A Blessing of Tears, while his sorrow is evident in some of the tracks' titles ("The Cathedral of Tears," "A Blessing of Tears," etc.). All of the tracks were recorded live during a week-long U.S. West Coast tour, and it differs from the preceding Soundscapes release, Radiophonics, because its sole purpose is obviously not to test his audience's "listening capabilities." Fripp has once again successfully put his most personal and heartfelt feelings into his music, the proof being heard throughout the beautiful A Blessing of Tears: 1995 Soundscapes, Vol. 2.

Robert Fripp's "A Blessing of Tears" consists of improvised live performances from Fripp's solo soundscapes tour in the beginning of 1995. Soundscapes is a form of digital guitar looping based on Frippertronics-- tape-based guitar looping that Brian Eno concocted. Fripp performs this in many contexts, in the case of this album, as a solo performer. The music on this album is entirely improvised, with only Fripp's guitar and processing in place. The result does not sound like a solo guitar record, but closer to electronic orchestral ambient music. It is fragile and often of stunning beauty, in particular on this album-- "A Blessing of Tears" is a reflection on the death of Fripp's mother, whose eulogy (by the guitarist) is included in the liner notes.

From the opening track ("The Cathedral of Tears"), the mood is set. The piece is achingly beautiful, suggestive of loss, prodding but in a gentle way, and overall mournful. This theme and feel is developed over the next two pieces ("First Light", whose loops hint at Fripp's solo line in 2003's "The Power To Believe II" and the album's standout track, "Midnight Blue", a piece of such a delicate nature it demands its listener to stop and listen) before sort of resetting on "Reflection I", whose gentle themes provide an openness not found on the previous tracks. Again,there seems to be a trilogy of pieces on this one, as "Second Light" and "A Blessing of Tears" build on this mood and establishment. The couplet at the end of the album, "Returning I" and "Returning II", is actually the same track, only the tape is played in reverse on one of them. It is interesting to contrast the two, as they are evocative in different manners.

This is certainly the best of the 1995 soundscapes series and likely the best of Fripp's ambient catalog. If you are a fan of ambient music, or of Robert Fripp, this is essential, if you are curious, this is where to start. Highly recommended.

The "Soundscapes" are more technologically sophisticated frippertronics and while the concept itself is not original, the effectiveness of tools is nonexistent without a good ear for sound. With _A Blessing of Tears_, Fripp has crafted an album of such beauty that you will wonder how it can even be real! All the pieces are taken from improvised, live solo performances. It is hard to describe what it sounds like, it is sort of like a rapturous form of guitar soloing... Fripp pensively constructs various levels of looped guitar synths through digital electronics (as opposed to the old frippertronics use of analog tapes), bearing no resemblance to usual guitar music, just a constantly shifting, alien voices that make your billions of individual cells quiver with ineffable emotions.

It is not like ambient new-age music for SISSIES that goes over you like moving water -- this gives most benefit to the active listener, rather than some passive-aggressive dingus trying to chill out. The way Fripp makes the different voices sort of "speak" to each other is very beautiful, and more engaging, like the solos from Crimson's "Walking on Air" but more complex. There is an emphasis on lots of minor and augmented harmonies, or harmony is strangely suspended altogether.

It is not like an ambient, textural wall of sound, it is about dialogue between different voices, a ravishing polyphony in the language of angels. There is no real structure so one is just lucky that this music was recorded and one can listen. That is part of why this music is a peaceful, mystical experience. _A Blessing of Tears_ is a meditation on sadness, dedicated as it is to the memory of Fripp's mother, but I find this album does not make me feel sad. As with the world, we see suffering and evil and we are distressed by how the world is apparently such a malevolent place. But past this veil of sadness, is a sense of reconciliation and recognition that all the instruments in the symphony of the Absolute meld into a perfectly coherent, beautiful whole. We think of pain and death, but we must also think of beauty, friendship, peace and love.

This is an excellent album!

Track listing:

1 The Cathedral Of Tears 6:30
2 First Light 7:59
3 Midnight Blue 6:06
4 Reflection I 6:06
5 Second Light 7:25
6 A Blessing Of Tears 8:37
7 Returning I 4:00
8 Returning II 5:12


Guitar, Producer – Robert Fripp



  2. Request: Would you have League of Gentlemen, Discotronics? I have it in mp3, would much appreciate an upgrade!

    1. I've never heard of that album and it does not appear in any online searches.


      On the Under Heavy Manners side of the album, the effect was modified in what Fripp described as "Discotronics"

    3. Yes, I found that, however there is no album by that name.

    4. I think the album I meant was maybe the one titled simply "The League of Gentlemen" (first four tracks are "Indiscreet I", "Inductive Resonance", "Minor Man", "Heptaparaparshinokh", there are 14 in total).

    5. Robert Fripp - The League Of Gentlemen [Editions EG (EGED 9)]

  3. Psyched to hear this, thank you! I too was not aware of this album, nor the other you just posted thank you very much, yet again!

  4. Robert Fripp - The League Of Gentlemen [Editions EG (EGED 9)]

  5. Wow, thanks so much Crimhead for your prompt response to my request! Great. Would love to reciprocate if I can - I have lots of KC live, 1.5 TB Grateful Dead live, Zappa, lots of jazz all types, please ask for anything you are missing, I might have it!

  6. Many Thanks!!! - James