The music of King Crimson, one of the main progressive rock bands of the 70s, has never been “easy listening”. In fact, it has always been more complex than the usual progressive music in those days. And the story behind this band isn’t easy to tell as well. The band’s mastermind and only constant member is guitarist Robert Fripp. The band’s line-up changed with nearly every album from their formation in 1969 to their first breakup in 1974, ranging from a trio to a sextet, lyricists not included. They’ve returned as a quartet in 1981 and kept the same line-up until disbanding again in 1984. Ten years later, a new sextet came together, this time with double staffing: two drummers, two bass/stick players and two guitarists, hence the nickname “double trio”. But – as always – this line-up didn’t last too long.
In 1997, Fripp was confronted with a lack of creativity and split the band into five small units (called ProjeKcts) consisting of two to four “double trio” members which started working and touring on their own. During this period, live improvisations were the key to new musical ideas. This marks the beginning of The ConstruKction Of Light. When the ProjeKcts ended in 1999, King Crimson returned as a quartet in 2000, full of ideas and ready to go.
The album starts with the strangely sounding but straight-forward ProzaKc Blues. You might wonder if the song is out of tune but this is King Crimson, surprising as usual. Typical are the punching drums and strange guitar and bass lines, yet the lower pitched vocals are new but only featured on this song. The use of electronics and the heaviness are also new to the band, creating a fresh and modern sound similar to Tool or Porcupine Tree. Next comes the title track in two parts. The first is an instrumental piece with dreamy but complex guitar lines. It segues into the second part which only adds vocals. This one also comes close to the 80s sound of the band and is the album’s only “soft” song.
Into The Frying Pan begins with Pat Mastelotto’s heavy distorted drums (imitating the pan’s sizzling) and showcases the guitar power of Robert Fripp, second guitarist/singer Adrian Belew and Warr Guitar player Trey Gunn (playing the bass parts) during the whole song. This distorted wall of sound is one of the album’s best moments.
FraKctured is a new version of the 70s song Fracture. It’s a tour de force with many different time signatures and fast guitar lines, changing from quiet, almost sweet sounds to the full power that coined the term “King Crimson takes no prisoners”.
But it’s getting even weirder with The World’s My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum, a totally crazy song full of senseless lyrics, screams, laughs and strange instrumental lines, brought to an end with a teeth-grinding solo by Fripp imitating a seemingly broken piano with his guitar synthesizer. You may assume that everyone is playing different tracks on this one.
The last King Crimson song is the 13-minute-long fourth part of Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”, a series started in 1973. This track is split into four parts itself and includes themes from the previous LTIA parts as well as a reprise of FraKctured. Maybe this one says it all: roaring guitars, almost endless soloing, many changes in time signature, heavy drumming and there even are vocals at the end. This is what King Crimson is all about.
After a minute of silence, the “bonus track” Heaven And Earth by ProjeKct X begins. Not to be confused: this still is the same line-up as before, but it is the title track taken from the corresponding ProjeKct X album. The track itself is a mix of ambient and industrial music with a fast, guitar-driven middle part.
All in all, The ConstruKction Of Light is one of the essential King Crimson albums, showcasing their technical craft and their power as well as their good songwriting. There are no flaws, even the craziness is a key element.
written by Wolfgang Merx