Andy Summers + Robert Fripp: I Advance Masked – US – CD 
- I Advance Masked
- Under Bridges of Silence
- China – Yellow Leader
- In The Cloud Forest
- New Marimba
- Girl On A Swing
- Hardy Country
- The Truth Of Skies
- Painting And Dance
- Still Point
- Seven On Seven
I remember hearing about the match up between Andy Summers of The Police and Robert Fripp, who was still active in King Crimson at the time. It was an MTV news spot in 1982 and The Police had yet to issue their world conquering “Synchronicity” album which was still in the pipeline for 1983. In other words, I still thought that The Police were a fine band. As usual, I had been buying Robert Fripp albums since reading about “Exposure” in the pages of OMNI magazine. Then I managed to see the music video for the title track on MTV and that was that! I soon had a copy of this album in the Record Cell.
The title song was built on a very sturdy rhythm section that throbbed like a finely tuned engine. It pulsated with guitars as synths, basses, and even guitars. The compulsive rhythms almost commanded one to dance like a dervish. Then the part I live for began at 2:35 when Fripp began his inhuman ostinato solo that erupted in earnest and never ended. Eventually Summers joined in with contrapuntal, open chords to broaden the scaffolding of this impressive number. When I hear Robert Fripp pick that many notes per second I just hold my breath involuntarily until it’s all over. This 5:10 track seems like about 3:20 to me.
“Under Bridges Of Silence” was completely different, with tinkly acoustic percussion with clouds of guitar synth wafting through the landscape. Eventually, an unearthly guitar could be heard wailing on the far horizon of this song. Ostinato playing returned in “China – Yellow Leader,” which was a medley track of two minds and moods. This time the vibe was placid instead of enervated as on “I Advance Masked.” The two players indulged in call and response soloing on the second half of this longish number.
Summer’s penchant for open chordal explorations manifested on “In The Cloud Forest” as it did on the Police at their most abstract fringes. Fripp met him with soulful leads that flickered like a serpent’s tongue. The two broke out acoustics for “Girl On A Swing” for something a lot more pastoral than the album thus far. Fripp added one of his high neck solos this time. “Hardy Country” referred to the writer, who also hailed from Dorset, like these two did. This one was intense. It felt like it could have been included on side two fo King Crimson’s “Discipline” and featured the occasional crash of white noise percussion, as did the title track. “The Truth Of Skies” began with a foreboding drone, until clouds of guitar synths began roiling on the horizon to offer some challenging listening.
Acoustics were broken out later on to shake the album’s arc up on “Painting And Dance.” Providing a calm and mannered vibe that still advanced like a clockwork. Fripp’s leads here took on an almost Grecian aspect by sounding like a bouzouki. The minor key chord progressions of “Stultified” seemed to foreshadow the feel of Fripp’s work on “Gone To Earth” a few years later, though the brief, unsettling track was nowhere near the epic length of the songs on that Sylvian opus.
At the time Andy Summers was undergoing a divorce when the sessions were happening for “I Advance Masked” so being preoccupied with that, he concentrated on adding counterpoint to what were mostly Fripp’s song structures; making this an album weighted towards the Fripp axis. It stood out as a snapshot more of where Fripp was at at the time of recording the second album of the reactivated King Crimson while sounding nothing like “Beat.” Instead, it pointed the way forward to the headspace Fripp would explore following that band’s breakup after a third album. I actually can’t remember an earlier occasion where Fripp indulged in acoustic guitars but as he would soon be teaching his Guitar Craft courses in a few years, that sound would be something he’d gravitate to in a major way.
As for Andy Summers, The Police would become one of the biggest bands on the planet in the next year following this project. By the time that he and Fripp reunited for 1984’s “Bewitched,” he would find himself on a more equal footing with his partner as he said he was in a much happier state of mind. But “Bewitched” is an album I’ve yet to hear. It’s been long years since I’ve seen a CD of that one, and truth be told, I only got this CD in 2001 when traveling to Toronto. It had been a long time since I’d seen one in The States and felt that it was now or never. As it’s currently $30-50 on Discogs, it looks like I was right to do that!
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