ends & oddmusic

Music for beards: Fripp and Eno’s “An Index of Metals”

No Gravatar

I like many types of music, ranging from Russian monophonic chant to Gothic German techno-metal to screechy avant-garde nonsense. My beard, however — well that’s a different story. His tastes are very specific, quite rarefied and were formed mostly in the first half of the 1970s, ending shortly after I was born. He likes droning, ambient noise, stuff that suggests the depths of space, or a long, slow descent into madness.

Every now and then he makes me lie down and listen to one of his top tracks on my Bose headphones. One of his favorite records is Fripp & Eno’s “Evening Star”, and within that album he especially likes what, back in the days of vinyl, comprised all of side two: the twenty eight minute drone epic An Index of Metals. Last Friday my beard and I played the track all the way through. Afterward I asked him why he likes it so much.

ME: Tell us a little about An Index of Metals, Mr. Beard.

BEARD: Well, it’s a collaboration between Robert Fripp, the guitarist from King Crimson, and Brian Eno, the famed producer of Talking Heads, U2, Coldplay and many other groups. Originally released in 1974  it is actually the second full length LP they made together in which they experimented with guitar and tape loops (the first was “No Pussyfooting).” Essentially Fripp would solo on his guitar while Eno simultaneously mutated and modified and played back the notes on two tape recorders that were running simultaneously. “Evening Star” took the technique to a new level: on “No Pussyfooting” it was obvious that Fripp was playing guitar,  but on the follow up his notes were at times altered beyond recognition.

ME: So it’s guitar that doesn’t sound like guitar?

BEARD: Sometimes. On side one, he plays a stunningly beautiful melodic line on the title track, but the humanity of the album rapidly recedes after that until you’re left with An Index of Metals.

ME: I like the title. Can you describe the track at all?

BEARD: It sounds like an index of metals.

ME: What does that mean?

BEARD: Imagine the sound of chromium, shimmering and cold, isolated and then held in stasis for a duration of time which is difficult to determine. Slowly, it changes, shifting into the sound of another metal, maybe one you can’t quite identify but which you’re pretty sure is on the periodic table. Meanwhile all of this is happening while you wander through the ice caves of Pluto. At least you think it’s Pluto, you could be on another planet entirely.

ME: Pluto was recently re-defined, it’s not a planet any more.

BEARD: Bullshit.

ME: No, it’s true.

BEARD: OK, maybe you’re roaming about on one of Neptune’s moons. And suddenly your feet leave the rocky surface and you drift into a shimmering cloud of sound, which is eerie and inhuman, and it floats around you like a mist, or a thick fog…

ME: Can you dance to it? Is it melodic?

BEARD: No. It’s the sound of a chilly eternity, a “music” that could last forever. It’s almost as if you stumble into it, and then, as the track fades, you feel it receding from you. But it’s still there, somewhere, hanging, suspended in time.

ME: Sounds very kosmische. Do you need a beard to listen to it?

BEARD: Interesting question. In fact, “No Pussyfooting” and “Evening Star” often make Pitchfork types’ lists as one of the key recordings of the 1970s. As is well known however these fey indie boys (for most of them are boys) cannot grow beards. And indeed, I doubt very much that many of them have listened to An Index of Metals all the way through. Ten minutes or so to claim the scalp, skip to the end, and then it’s back to Radiohead, jangly pop and wanking.

Note also that one of the collaborators — Eno — was among the first rock musicians to adopt the completely bald, professorial look. And if one of the creators went beardless, this might suggest no beard is necessary. But then we look at the other half of the duo, Fripp, who at this time was wearing a neatly manicured beard. I think the implication is clear: a beard is not required, but it certainly helps. And if a beard is worn then it must be suitably intellectual in appearance. Not too shaggy, or wild. Good for stroking, one might say, in order to facilitate the cerebral processes, one’s receptiveness to eternity.

ME: Mr. Beard, thank you for your time, which you seem to be suggesting is endless.

BEARD: Always happy to oblige.

Daniel Kalder is an author and journalist originally from Scotland, who currently resides in Texas after a ten year stint in the former USSR. Visit him online at www.danielkalder.com
Print This Post Print This Post

12 Responses to “Music for beards: Fripp and Eno’s “An Index of Metals””

  1. Some of my body parts (e.g. the left ankle) like SEE HOW WE ARE by X, whereas X purists find it to be generic, AOR-radio shlock.

    From rectum to pie-hole, though, my whole body loves Eyvind Kang’s VIRGINAL CO-ORDINATES.

  2. “Virginal Coordinates” is such a fantastic record it made me rush out and buy a bunch of not nearly as fantastic Eyvind Kang records, although none of them were flat out bad. Kang himself has a beard of the wispy guru variety. Perhaps I shall ask my beard what he thinks in a later instalment of this thrilling series.

    “Go in a good way to a better place.”

  3. Kang is stellar. I’ve probably listened to “I am the Dead” 600 times in the last three years.

  4. I have no beard – although I have had a beard.
    I make ambient/soundscape/auralorama-type sounds.
    When I had a beard my beard objected to bleeping and droning noises and wanted to listen to Elbow and Stereophnics.
    In the end it was pap indie music or a shave.
    I went for the shave.
    (I note that Fripp – long ago – went for the shave as well. Perhaps his beard, too, preferred more commercially acceptable music that appeals to student types.)

  5. I envy you your beard

  6. @ Mechkov- perhaps your beard was an anti-beard- it looked like a beard, but did not behave like one, a bit like Bizarro is to Superman. I hear that these imposters manifest themselves from time to time.

    Interesting point re: Fripp’s beard. Was it guiding him down a dark path? Once it was gone he did start playing dance/New Wave music, albeit of a very weird, almost bearded quality.

    My beard thanks you for the kind comment.

  7. Hmm
    You make two very good points – and I notice three days stubble on my chin (my boiler has blown up).
    I will consult my stubble on these pints this evening in my studio…

    Many thanks…

  8. Little do ye knowest the mysteries of un an shaven beard. Grooming is essential, shaving is not. End of story. There is only one true answer to the question. Case rested.

  9. On shaving: I own a few records that I cannot listen to unless my beard has spent at least six weeks growing, unmolested by a set of clippers- and totally ungroomed.

  10. Your Beard, sir, has exquisite taste! I must recommend some albums by The Legendary Pink Dots. Most will do to appease the Beard’s stated criteria. Happy listening!

  11. My beard has seen records by the Legendary Pink Dots on sale but has thus far never indulged. I shall see what he thinks.

  12. Recommended –

    Any Day Now
    The Golden Age
    Crushed Velvet Apocalypse
    The Maria Dimension
    Chemical Playschool 8-9
    Hallway of the Gods
    Nemesis Online
    A Perfect Mystery

    Hope these get Beard approval! Cheers!

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment