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travis & fripp - thread

Recorded at DGM Soundworld by David Singleton, with subsequent editing, mixing and mastering by Steven Wilson, Thread - from 2008 -comprises nine improvised pieces by Theo Travis and Robert Fripp .

This unique and almost inevitable collaboration yielded a beautiful sequence of recordings that artfully avoided the cliches routinely associated with ambient and improv, while wholly encompassing the core elements of both forms of music.

The strength of the duo as players and listeners never allows the improvisational base to sound insular or indulgent; the overall sound is expansive and accessible, with the passion and commitment of the players audible from the first moments.

Unfashionably, perhaps, in an era where music is often portrayed as ephemeral or disposable, this is an album that rewards repeated listening, revealing new depths with each play.

A free track from the album (now titled 'Land Beyond The Forest' is available here.

mp3 download

File Size: 75.9 MB.

flac download

File Size: 243.6 MB.


**** 4 stars

Sax and flute player joins King Crimson guitarist on soundscaping adventures.

At first, as wispy flute meanders about on morose slabs of processed guitar, this sounds suspiciously like chill-out music for hippies of a certain age. But stay a while and the pair's gentle improvisations slowly draw you in. By the third track, the solemn beauty and infinite chords of As Snow Falls may have you hooked. Theo Travis, reedsman with Soft Machine Legacy and Gong once recorded a jazz version of 21st Century Schizoid Man, and makes an ideal partner, bringing new textures and timbres to Fripp's one-man Midi orchestra. As far as you can get from King Crimson's clatter, this is spiritual, deeply felt music you don't have to own a kaftan to enjoy.

John Bungey, Mojo

Radiate And Not Fade Away…

Applying the principles of Frippertronics to his flute playing on 2003’s Slow Life, it was only going to be a matter of time before Theo Travis ended up collaborating with Robert Fripp. Having exchanged vows of mutual respect after Fripp saw the sax player performing with Soft Machine Legacy (where Travis more than ably replaced the late, great Elton Dean), the pair retired to deepest Wiltshire to a day of improvising in 2007.

With only a tiny scrap of the session utilised on Travis’ Double Talk, Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson and Travis have co-produced a best of the rest for the wider world. Avoiding any outright soloing as such, the real magic on this album are the nuances and intricate details that sustain and support each other’s work. Like two colourists sharing the canvas, they painstakingly blend their respective approaches into a result that is beautiful, delicate, sometimes wistful and occasionally forbidding.

On "The Unspoken," Fripp’s initial playing is surprisingly reminiscent of those gentle runs during the second half of Crimson’s "Moonchild,"and are arguably his jazziest licks in a couple of decades. Travis’ soprano sax during "The Silence Beneath" not only widens the sonic scope of the record but adds a more demonstrative voice that coaxes Fripp into responding to the curling vaporous notes with some characteristically laser-edged light-beams. And it's the sax / soundscapes combo that provides the 10 minute closer, "Pastorale," with its warmest highpoint.

As you might expect from musicians of this calibre and fluency this is just one of several utterly radiant sequences. Yet the manner in which the darker timbre of Travis' alto flute conspires with Fripp’s somewhat austere string settings ensures the prevailing atmosphere is the right side of chilly rather than the wrong side of chill-out.

Sid Smith blog (King Crimson biographer and MOJO contributor)

Robert Fripp's excursions into the land of what is reductively called 'ambient' have now been worming their way through the ether for over 30 years ever since he sat down with Brian Eno accompanied only by two tape recorders in 1974. I say 'reductively' because, over and over again, the results of his serial extemporising with and without fellow travellers have always had an edge that renders them far more than floating tones for coffee table living. His 'Frippertronics' - all achieved with guitar - can often tumble into vast disturbing places where the soul is most definitely not at rest. His recent reunion with Eno (on The Equatorial Stars and last year's Beyond Even) could seamlessly veer from beatific to beastly. The results obviously tend to vary depending on the co-conspirator. Here, with Theo Travis, it's a gentler ride.

Thread was created in one improvised sitting, one day in 2007. Fripp, having already guested on one track on Travis' album, Double Talk, joined forces with the saxophonist and flautist best known for his work on the boundaries of Canterbury axis in bands like Gong and Soft Machine Legacy. Travis' mainly sticks to flute here, adding the requisite eastern scales to perforate Fripp's more amorphous washes of sound. If anything it most closely resembles Nik Turner's undervalued experiment in ambient work, Xitintoday (a comparison which, one suspects, Fripp would hate and Travis would love). On The Silence Beneath Travis' alto saxophone interjects like a gulls cries over the sea swell of RF's orchestral loops. Only on the looped jazz of The Unspoken or the finale, Pastorale, do we get to hear anything that sounds like strings being plucked.

As stated, the whole is far from mere Elysian dreaming. Before Then, for instance, toys with dissonance and swirling chaos before settling again into calm contemplation at its coda. Always at the edge of Fripp's contributions is a questioning, needling unresolvedness that never lets the whole become too self-satisfied or stray near what the uneducated would call 'whale music'. And unlike his recent work with Eno, the midi tones of Fripp's guitar rarely deploy anything straining too hard to be another instrument. Instead he sticks to tones that are pure and perfectly match Travis' lovely wind playing. Now, if only they'd do this stuff live...

Chris Jones, BBC.co.uk

It is possible that Travis and Fripp may have invented a new micro-genre with these nine improvised ambient soundscapes: Ambi-prov? Im-bient? Whatever you want to call it, it's a beguiling sound. Travis's live looping and multitracking of ethereal flute and sax creates entrancing eddies and vortices; while Fripp- Godfather of ambient music – provides amniotic background washes and futuristic Bladerunner atmospherics. What really distinguishes it from the majority of electronic ambient music is the amount of fluid interplay at work in these real-time creations. There's a sense of discovery, of gentle unravelling, with small moments of surprise appearing out of the overall enveloping mood – an organic touch that can only be the result of genuine human interaction. There are even a couple of more conventional duets when Fripp peels back the layers of electronic processes and plucks a clean, jazz-ish sound from his strings. For the most part, though, it's like floating , half-awake through high, cloudy regions on delicate paper wings.

Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise Magazine

That ampersand has been a busy little letter form in Mr. Fripp's career, here linking up with flautist and sax man Theo Travis for some cross wind / string dialogs. Fripp is here principally in his soundscapes mode: a zinc of Eventides pitching and looping soft attacks into shimmering tone clusters that do an often mesmerizing job of blending immaculately with the harmonic make-up of the flute and soprano sax. Travis can't help but remind anyone with limited flute awareness of the Paul Horn Inside recordings, yet again occasionally burbling as if in some Caravan session from 1970 or at better moments striking near the constrained beauty of Jan Gabarek's incredibly expressive improvs over the Medieval plainchant and polyphony sung by The Hilliard Ensemble on Officium and Mnemosyne – performances which one might guess Fripp's Churchscapes, as a small mobile unit, aspire to.
Like the titles – "as snow falls" "the silence beneath" – the music is mostly sentimental, blurry with smooth radius edges and some diatonic tonal shading that Eventides are so good at and are so damn hard to play with. Both musicians do an excellent job of complementing the other in range and timbre. There are moments of graceful and illusive suspension, hinting at the stillness of drone without ever being still long enough to become one. There's no overstatement, no flurries or drama: the virtuosic impulse is completely intent on understatement and dialog. In its way, the music seems emotionally neutral, perhaps overwhelmed by the aforementioned sentimental quality so typical of the opener, "land beyond the forest". Emphatically, this neutral quality is an asset, allowing the listener glimpses and access to intimations and gestures in favor of being drowned by or hammered into some particular mental state. We hear no plectrum guitar work from Fripp until the very last piece, "pastorale", which lives up to its name and feels much more deliberate in voice and structure, a slow and shifting construct that puts the interplay between the two artists into a more accessible soundstage – a lovely close to a collection of pieces that will sit nicely and patiently among the constituent parts of the already luminous and voluminous soundscapes and churchscapes, emitting its own specific aura of purposeful calm.

Added: July 15th 2008 Reviewer: Kerry Leimer

Sea of Tranquility website (USA)

Robert Fripp is one of the few guitarists who has a unique and recognisable style, and so it’s strange to hear a flautist playing in a way that sounds uncannily like him - as Theo Travis achieves here on the exquisite "The Apparent Chaos Of Blue". Travis feeds his flute through a similar delay system to Fripp’s Frippertronics setup, and on this piece he employs some Fripp’style intervals in his playing. Fripp himself, meanwhile, starts off with the gently buzzing notes before setting up loops of radiant synthetics, which he embroiders with delicate lines (which are, oddly enough, fun reminiscent of his playing on the improvised section of King Crimson’s "Moonchild" from in 1969). Fripp has utilised these MIDI-generated "soundscapes" as he terms them) extensively - for well over a decade now, both in the latterday incarnation of that group and solo, and although texturally interesting at times, "As The Snow Falls" shows that they can easily become cloying and overbearing.

On Thread, the musicians’ near static improvisations recall the way Fripp and Eno explored space on 2005’s The Equatorial Stars, and Thread shares some of that album’s brooding quality. Although the ten minute "Pastorale" might be assumed to evoke airbrushed visions of Elysium, it actually begins under glowering clouds. Travis’s Terry Riley- style sax loops build over the mid-section and there is a brief but animated.guitar and flute duet to close. Thread might not be a release of massive significance, but it is substantial and rewarding. That it was recorded in just one day back in 2007 shows that Travis and Fripp are particularly empathetic, and augurs well for future collaborations.

Mike Barnes, Wire Magazine



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