King Crimson - The ConstruKCtion Of Light


Year of Release: 2000
Label: Virgin
Catalog Number: 7243 8 49261 2
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:52:00

Well, I hesitate to post [to the newgroup] about the new album so early, because anything I say is bound to be torn apart and become a Major Conflagration, but I'll grit my teeth and do so anyway, trying to keep my comments as casual and informal as possible. I'm not pretending this is a definitive review, or even *my* definitive review. And after all, I'm writing this after only one complete listen.

Firstly, let me say that I'm not especially pleased with the disc. I don't like it as well as Discipline, Beat, Three Of A Perfect Pair or Thrak. Nor any other King Crimson release, outside of the Lizard / Islands / Earthbound period. However, purists may like it a lot more than me, because it's the most "prog" KC release in ages. As far as comparisons to KC's existing catalog, imagine Red and Larks Tongues In Aspic minus a chunk of vocal emphasis, plus high-tech drums.

Ah yes, the drums. A turnoff for me. The electronic nature of the drumming is really upfront, and constantly draws attention to itself. Smack-k, smack-k, smack-k. The crashes have a processed gearhead feel which doesn't appeal to me at all. Instead of thinking about the rhythms, I was thinking about Pat's equipment and endorsement deals. I also missed Bruford's more indirect, elliptical style of timekeeping -- unlike Fripp, obviously. Your own view on this approach may vary, but be warned. I found the drums grating.

The sound has almost none of Thrak's ethereal, impressionist qualities -- it's harsh, jagged, gritty and ferociously mathematical. Except for a brief section at the end of "Frying Pan" and bits of "Heaven And Earth," there are none of those airy, rhythmless washes found on Thrak. That's a minus, for me -- I enjoyed hearing the band stretch toward a more modern, painterly sound on Thrak, one less concerned with dig-this rhythmic extravagances. The new disc doesn't feel nearly as contemporary as Thrak, as a result.

Most of the music is familiar Crimson turf. The diminished intervals, the fiendishly thorny rhythms (*especially* thorny here), the frenetic double-picking which substitutes endless key modulations for melodic direction. The album is all about Fripp, Fripp, Fripp and his axe. Yet the most intriguing aspect is Belew's contribution, which might explain his ambivalence about the project and short-lived resignation during the recording sessions. As if Fripp heeded the Belew-bashers, Belew is constricted to a fairly minor role. For one thing, his vocals are generally filtered and multi-tracked into near oblivion, such that the lyrics are almost unintelligible without the aid of headphones. "Frying Pan" is the only track with a clear Belew vocal. The most ostentatious tampering is on "ProzaKC Blues," where his vocals are electronically tuned down to resemble a gravelly blues baritone. This is quite a shock, especially on first listen. I may never get used to this. It's almost as if the album maliciously hides and obscures Belew's input. And we all know about the acoustic "I Have A Dream" section which was deleted from the album against his wishes.

However, Belew's lyrics are his retaliation. Sounding noticeably unhappy, he's recurrently asking "What am I doing here?" -- both within the band, and here on Earth. The climactic section of "Larks Pt. 4" (actually, a full group version of the above "I Have A Dream") lists a long string of political calamities, from Hiroshima to Kennedy to Columbine. "The ConstruKCtion of Light" is full of cosmic questions ("And if God is dead, what am I?/A fleck of dust on the wing of a fly..."). Note: this song also includes an odd, recurrent montage of chanted words, which reminds me more of Yes than just about anything else in KC's catalog (see "Awaken gentle mass touch," and the like). As for "Oyster Soup," I couldn't even understand the garbled vocals well enough to parse the words. But again, it's Belew's stream-of-consciousness, laundry-list approach.

"ProzaKC Blues" is the real bombshell, though. Belew really throws down the gauntlet here, with blatantly autobiographical thoughts about his creative angst. Fans will be debating this song long and hard, and I guess the debate starts here. Amidst other complaints about depression and frustration, here's a key lyric: "I went to my physician, who was buried in his thoughts/He said 'Son, you've been reading too much Elephant Talk.'" Wow! Pretty nervy. Immediately afterwards, he adds the parenthetical word "chit-chat," both to quote the original song and to sneer at the mailing list's level of dialogue. Give 'em hell, Ade! Otherwise, the song *does* have a blues melody and chord structure, yes, but of course the band gargoyles up the rhythm to be sure it never coalesces into a pleasant groove. The music, the music ... well, as I said, no big surprises. "FraKCtured" is Fripp's major showcase, and it burns. It may be both the prettiest and ugliest track, depending on the passage you play. It starts out with a section of contemplative clockwork guitar chimes, with little more than a bass drone in the background. Then it switches into typical Fripp double-picking patterns, before a really beautiful descending section of resolution. The music meanders along in a similar manner for awhile, but then bursts into a heavily distorted frenzy around the five-minute mark which is just *furious*. The Fripp monster is unleashed! A dizzying explosion of picking, which few others could manage. It then returns to a more subdued atmosphere, as in the opening section. Excellent.

Some observations about other tracks are overdue, I suppose. The first half of "The ConstruKCtion of Light" reminds me of the lean guitar tinklings of the League of Gentleman, but when Belew's vocals kick in, it's back to the polyrhythmic pop of Discipline -- except the vocal melody (like almost every other melody on the album) is weak. "Frying Pan" is this album's "Dinosaur," with the most seamless integration of Belew's melodies and the band's instrumental acrobatics. The verse lines have a droning psychedelic flavor reminiscent of various Belew solo tunes. It's my favorite track, along with "FraKCtured." "Oyster Soup" is somewhat of a mess, however. As tuneless a piece as Crimson has ever recorded, it just rambles along in a gnarled, half-shouted, one-key groove and goes essentially nowhere. Pretty much an exercise in endurance for me. It does feature an unlikely urging to "Get jiggy with it," however, plus a brief reference to Discipline's "Frame by Frame." There's also an interesting keyboard-led section, which may be the first true keyboard solo on a KC album since, uhh, Islands? The notes are filtered and warped, giving the lines a drunken, chaotic feel -- I like it. I assume this is Belew's work. I wish the current group was a bit more ambitious with keyboards, rather than just using them like a Mellotron to vacantly fill instrumental space. Plenty of room for further experimentation, there.

As for the monolithic but not quite thrilling "Larks Pt. 4," well, it earns its title. The opening section strongly recalls the original piece, with brittle chunks of chords clipping along against the beat. Then about halfway through the second section, it begins to wittily quote and manipulate the opening riff of "Red." Too bad about the return of those wheezy drones of fake-string keyboards. Section three is back to the first section's motifs, with yowling guitar lines laid on top. Section four has a much stronger melodic appeal, with modulating, descending chord lines in Fripp's usual arpeggiated style. This is where Belew's Discipline-style list of historical references enters the picture, establishing a stirring tone of epic sadness. Very effective. My favorite of the four sections, but it's not enough to make me like this piece as well as the previous "Larks Tongues" compositions.

As for the "bonus track," I suspect it's highly akin to the ProjeKCt volumes (I still don't own any of those discs, but I've heard soundclips). It's mostly based around Fripp's Soundscapes style, while the band adds noisier machinations in and around the groove. The track has a much looser, improvisational feel than the rest of the album, and doesn't quite grab me.

In any case, it seems that King Crimson is addressing their established fanbase, and not worrying about anyone else caring. I can't see this album converting *any* new Crimson fans, but the old guard will probably be pleased. As for me, I have mixed feelings, and miss the distinctive styles of Levin and Bruford. I expect to pass on this album's tour dates, as well -- the material isn't quite compelling enough to push me to see the band again. Oh, and the "KC" puns in the song titles? TaKCy, really taKCy.

It *is* among the three or four best records I've heard this year (so far). I just don't think it measures up too well against the group's best material, compositionally.

[This was a review posted on Usenet of an advance copy of the CD; the author kindly let me reprint (back in 2000), but wished to remain anonymous (and forever anon. he shall stay as I've now forgotten who it was...) -ed. Dec 2005]


Tracklisting:
(based on advance copy) ProzaKC Blues / The ConstruKCtion of Light [track 2 & 3] / Frying Pan / FraKCtured / Oyster Soup / Larks Part 4 [tracks 7 - 10] / Heaven and Earth

(For the released version, the track listing is:) ProzaKc Blues (5:29) / The ConstruKction Of Light (8:39, trk 2 & 3) / Into The Frying Pan (6:54) / FraKctured (9:06) / The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum (6:22) / Larks' Tongues In Aspic - Part IV (9:07, trk 7-9) / Coda: I Have A Dream / Heaven And Earth (7:46)

Musicians:
Robert Fripp - guitars
Adrian Belew - guitar, vocals
Trey Gunn - touch guitar
Pat Mastelotto - drums

Discography:
In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)
In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970)
Lizard (1970)
Islands (1971)
Earthbound (1972)
Larks' Tongues In Aspic (1973)
Starless & Bible Black (1974)
Red (1974)
USA (1975)
Young Person's Guide To King Crimson (1976)
Discipline (1981)
Beat (1982)
3 Of A Perfect Pair (1984)
The Compact King Crimson (1987)
Frame By Frame, Vol 1: 1969-1974 (JP) (1991)
Frame By Frame: The Essential King Crimson (1991)
The Great Deceiver, Vol. 1 (Live 1973-1974) (1992)
The Great Deceiver, Vol. 2 (Live 1973-1974) (1992)
The Concise King Crimson (1993)
Vroom (1995)
Thrak (1995/2002)
B'Boom: Official Bootleg - Live In Argentina (1995)
Thrakattak (1996)
Epitaph, Vols. 1-2 (1997)
Epitaph, Vols. 3-4 (1997) Night Watch (1998)
Space Groove (1998)
Absent Lovers: Live In Montreal 1984 ()
Live At The Marquee, 1969 (1998)
Live At Jacksonville, 1972 (1998)
Live At The Jazz Cafe (1998)
Live Groove (JP) (1999)
Live At Cap D'Agde, 1982 (1999)
On Broadway: Live In NYC 1995 (1999)
West Coast Live (JP) (1999)
Masque (JP) (1999)
Live In San Francisco: The Roar Of P4 (1999)
The VROOOM Sessions, 1994 (1999)
21st Century Schizoid Man (JP) (1999)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol. 1 (JP) (1999)
Essential King Crimson (1999)
The Deception Of The Thrush (UK) (1999)
The Projekcts (UK) (1999)
Live At Summit Studios: Denver, 03/12/1972 (JP) (2000)
Live In Central Park, NYC '74 (2000)
The Construkction Of Light (2000)
Discipline: Live At Moles Club, Bath 1981 (2000)
Heavy Construkction [Live] (2000)
Live At Plymouth, 1971 (2000)
Nashville Rehearsals, 1997 (2000)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 2 (JP) (2000)
A Beginner's Guide To Projekcts (JP) (2000)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 3 (2000)
A Beginners' Guide To King Crimson Collectors' Club (2000)
Live In Mainz 1974 (2001)
Live In Berkeley, CA 1982 (2001)
Projekct Two: Live In Northampton, MA July 1, 1998 (2001)
Live In Detroit, MI 1971 (2001)
Vrooom Vrooom (2001)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 4 (JP) (2001)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 6 (2001)
Shoganai (2002)
Live In Nashville, TN 2001 (2002)
Live At The Zoom Club, 1972 (2002)
Earthbound [Live] (2002)
Live In Hyde Park: July 5, 1969 (2002)
Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With (ep) (2002)
Ladies Of The Road [Live] (2002)
Champaign-Urbana Sessions January 17-30, 1983 (2003)
The Power To Believe (2003)
Projekct One: Jazz Cafe Suite (2003)
Live In Orlando, FL 1972 (2003)
Official Bootleg Volume One (2003)
Live In Guildford, 1972 (2003)
Elektrik (2003)
The Power To Believe Tour Box (2003)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 7 (2003)
Live At Fillmore East, 1969 (2004)
Live In Philadelphia, PA 1982 (2004)
Projekct Three: Live In Austin, TX March 25, 1999 (2004)
The 21st Century Guide To King Crimson, Vol 1: 1969-1974 (2004)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 8 (2004)
Live In Heidelberg, 1974 (2005)
Live In Warsaw, 2000 (2005)
The 21st Century Guide To King Crimson, Vol 2: 1981-2003 (2005)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 9 (2006) Live In Mexico City 1996 (JP) (2006)
The Collectable King Crimson, Vol. 1 (2006)
Live In Munich, 1982 (2006)
Live At The Wiltern, 1995 (2006)
Cirkus (2006)
Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide To King Crimson (2006)
Collectors' King Crimson, Vol 10 (2006)
The Condensed 21st Century Guide To King Crimson: 1969-2003 (2006)
Live In Alexandria, VA 2003 (2007)
Live In Denver, CO 1972 (2007)
Live In Kassel, 1974 (2007) The Collectable King Crimson, Vol2 - Live In Bath 1981 (2007)
Collectors' Box, Vol 1: 1969 (2007)
Collectors' Box, Vol 2: 1971-1972 (2007)
Collectors' Box, Vol 3: 1972-1974 (2007)
Collectors' Box, Vol 4: 1981-1982 (2007)
Collectors' Box, Vol 5: 1995 & After (2007)
Live In New York, NY 1982 (2008)
The Collectable King Crimson, Vol 3: Live In London, Pts. 1-2 1996 (2008)
40th Anniversary Tour Box (2009)
Collectable King Crimson, Vol 4 (2009)

The Noise: Live At Frejus '82 (DVD) (1985)
Live In Japan 1995 (DVD) (1996)
Deja Vroom (DVD) (1999)
Eyes Wide Open (DVD) (2003)
Neal And Jack And Me: Live 1982-1984 (DVD) (2004)
Inside: 1972-1975 (DVD) (2005)
In Concert, Tokyo 1995 (DVD) (2009)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: April 1st 2000
Reviewer: anonymous

Artist website: www.king-crimson.com
Hits: 832
Language: english

  

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