[Review] Andy Summers/Robert Fripp: I Advance Masked (1982)

There is a law, apparently, that every rock guitarist has to make at least one noodly album of guitar sounds.

Kronomyth 1.0: No policefooting.

Prior to taking early retirement from The Police, guitarist Andy Summers released this instrumental record with Robert Fripp. Despite second billing, Fripp’s fingerprints are all over this one; in fact, I Advance Masked is tantamount to the pair making a Robert Fripp album. A good Robert Fripp album, mind you, filled with Andy’s exotic bag of tricks and memorable melodies that may have gestated with Summers during his long-suffering silence in The Police.

For Fripp, the album helped put him back on the map. For Summers, it banished him from the middle of the map to the edge of the known world. Not that the reconstituted King Crimson wasn’t selling records, but fans of The Police probably weren’t buying copies of Beat, and were likely left nonplussed by all this instrumental stuff. As time proved, Summers and Fripp shared a passion for instrumental music, with The Police guitarist carving out a modest solo career since then, but at the time only Fripp’s fans were braced for I Advance Masked.

Looking back over both their careers, it’s easy to see I Advance Masked as a small triumph. Taking an approach similar to Brian Eno’s Music For Films, I Advance Masked is a series of short pieces that explore different moods, textures and settings. These range from meditative islands (“Girl On A Swing”) to tightly controlled kaleidoscopes of sound (“Hardy Country”) to noisy experiments (“Stultified”). It’s not an album of Frippertronics like Let The Power Fall, but rather a blending of Fripp’s extremes with Summers’ exotic and diverse musical interests. Thus, we’re treated to a tri-elemental world of guitars, synthesizers and percussion: something more substantive than Frippertronics and less substantive than King Crimson or The Police.

Honestly, there’s nothing I can recall in The Police’s record that will prepare you for I Advance Masked, even though many of the guitar textures will sound familiar to students of the band. For all intents and purposes, Summers was prepared to put The Police behind him and follow the likes of Fripp into the strange world of the avant garde. Thus hope springs eternal for all of us.

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Original LP Version

A1. I Advance Masked (5:10)
A2. Under Bridges of Silence (1:41)
A3. China – Yellow Leader (7:08)
A4. In The Cloud Forest (2:28)
A5. New Marimba (3:36)
A6. Girl On A Swing (2:02)
B1. Hardy Country (2:58)
B2. The Truth of Skies (2:07)
B3. Painting And Dance (3:23)
B4. Still Point (3:05)
B5. Lakeland/Aquarelle (1:42)
B6. Seven On Seven (1:36)
B7. Stultified (1:24)

All songs written by Andy Summers and Robert Fripp.

The Players

Robert Fripp & Andy Summers (all instruments including electric guitars, Roland and Moog synthesizers, Fender bass, Roland guitar synthesizers, various percussion). Produced by Andy Summers and Robert Fripp; engineered by Tony Arnold, Tim Summerhayes; mixed by Tim Summerhayes.

The Pictures

Design by Andy Summers and Michael Ross. Front cover by Jimmy Rizzi. Photo by Jill Fromanovsky.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on October 5, 1982 in the UK (A&M, AMLH 64913), the US (A&M, SP-4913), Australia (A&M, L37899), Germany (Editions EG, 2311 182) and Japan (A&M, AMP-28061); reached #60 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (A&M, 4913).

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