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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

King Crimson

The Construkction of Light

Review by G. W. Hill

King Crimson has always been an enigmatic group. The band has basically had three previous incarnations; '60's/'70's, '80's and the '90's versions. The '70's grouping focused on what is now considered traditional progressive rock, but with a lot more adventurous instrumentation and arrangements than most bands of the genre. The '80's grouping of the band had a more stripped down guitar dominated approach featuring the quirky vocal stylings of Adrian Belew. In the '90's, the band focused on a "double trio" approach, creating a wall of sound that was incredibly powerful. This newest version of the group shows the band as a four piece. The sounds of this album really seem to encapsulate all of the previous groupings into one coherent and wondrous sound, though. It is almost as if this was the plan all along, and we as listeners had to follow all the steps to get here.

The group is currently (founder main Crimson-man) Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn and Pat Mostolletto. These four men, with the addition of Bill Bruford and Tony Levin made up the '90's version of Crimson.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
ProzaKC Blues
With a dark, off-kilter '90's era sort of bluesy rock riff, this is an unusual, but fun, cut. The lyrics are heavily rooted in dark humor. The vocals have a too-low-to-be-natural feel to them and a somewhat distorted sound, calling to mind the vocal sounds of "21st Century Schizoid Man" just a bit. This one features some screeching guitar soloing.
The ConstruKCtion of Light
Textural tones with a bass groove that really cooks start this cut. It becomes strange, almost "Groon"ish in mode, but with a definite '90's Crimson sound. This sort of texture continues for quite a while, getting very complex at times. Quirky riffing takes the piece for a time, then a melodic segment reminiscent of "Thela GunJinjeet" takes over for a while. This segment forms the basis of the next movement of the composition, being broken at times by returns of the earlier parts. The cut then drops to a segment that calls to mind early Crimson (Lizard era) with an electronic edge. This movement pulls in vocals in a very definite early KC mode. It then shifts gear, into a segment showcasing an '80's Crimson sound. The track alternates between these modes. "Should it be impossible, That a man might supervise, The construKCtion of light?" This is a very strong piece.
Frying Pan
Ambient tones begin this one, then becoming strong and hard edged '90's KC for a time. The number then shifts gear to a fairly straightforward rock riff that incorporates a definite Crimson sound for good measure. The vocals are just a bit Beatlesish mixed with an '80's era Crimson sound. This one is quirky, yet accessible. The instrumental break is very potent and features some great oddly timed percussion. Classically tinged slower and softer tones take the cut to its conclusion.
FraKCtured
Crimson styled tones wandering around in loose patterns form the intro to this instrumental. Then riffing very much resembling a combination of '90's Crimson mixed with Red era takes the piece for a while. This is followed by a more sedate segment that sounds older yet. It then goes back to the mix of old and new. It alternates between these two sounds. Coming out of one of the mellow segments, the composition explodes with a fury.
Oyster Soup
Feeling like standard '90's era fare, this cut is a fun rocker. "The world is my oyster soup." The vocals have a processed texture and feel a bit like very old Crimson. The track even includes an allusion to the music of Will Smith with a quick, "Get jiggy with it." The lyrics to this number really stand out in a stream of consciousness sort of way. The instrumental jam is particularly strong and one that combines elements of old KC with new.
Larks Part 4
Starting in triumphant tones, this one is certainly aptly named as it begins with Larks' Tongues in Aspic themes. It is a reconstruction of those classic modes and incredibly interesting hard-edged prog jam. This is KC of any era at their best as it keeps dancing around and reinventing its themes. It erupts for a time into a jam that seems at once both frantic and pensive. This cut covers so much musical territory that it takes up four tracks on the disc for its nearly 13 minute length. The ending movement is particularly powerful and lushly arranged and features a verse or two of vocals throwing out all sorts of politically and socially charged events and names of recent history. It also includes some very tasty guitar work.
Heaven and Earth
After and extended dramatic period of silence, the album continues with ambient tones. Then a very strong rock riff takes over for a time, only to return to the ambient modes. The potent rock riff then returns, taking on more classic Crimson modes. Next, it drops into chaos for a time, coming back out with a nice percussively dominated jam. This segment keeps building in a classic Crimsoid mode, part chaos, and part beauty. It drops back to more ambient textures, then to a Native American sounding drumbeat coupled with lush keyboard modes. After building on this, the cut drops to just the rhythm section to end.
 
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