Friday, December 14, 2012

King Crimson 13: The ConstruKction Of Light

By the end of the century, King Crimson had evolved yet again. The “double trio” of Thrak was back down to a quartet along the lines of the ‘80s version of the band, with Adrian Belew on vocals and other guitar, Trey Gunn on the bass equivalent and Pat Mastelotto on predominantly electronic drums. The nature of that percussion pervades throughout The ConstruKction Of Light (the title being something of a nod to the interim “ProjeKcts” Fripp had encouraged among the double trio members, and the extra letter changing anything it can to “Kc”—cute, huh?). Unless we’re mistaken, and that’s not an impossibility, there’s no Mellotron to be heard anywhere.
The first track, “ProzaKc Blues”, has an excellent groove (and, as Crimheads like to point out, a standard chord progression) but it’s almost immediately undermined by a heavily processed vocal brought down about three octaves for comedic effect. While it’s nice to see that Fripp has a sense of humor—there’s even a nod to the longtime online mailing list dedicated to the band and their offshoots—what could have been a great opener instead dares the listener to continue. The title track is a big improvement. Split into two parts, intricate guitars answer each other in opposite speakers, and when the vocals enter in the second half, it’s more like the sound we’d normally associate with the Belew period. An appropriately sizzling effect starts off “Into The Frying Pan”, and there’s something about the wobbly vocals and guitars that sounds like psychedelic Beatles. Speaking of which, “The World’s My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum” follows the type of free-association exercise that John Lennon indulged in during his househusband years—with some nods to the ilk of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”—with less than hilarious results. (Do you really want to hear the phrase “get jiggy with it” on a Crimson album?) While there’s no credit for keyboards, the last minute or so is dominated by an anarchic piano solo.
Belew’s lyrics being hit or miss, it’s more tempting to concentrate on the instrumental segments, which are lengthy. “FraKctured” is something of an update of the closing track from Starless And Bible Black, alternating extremely precise and urgent soloing with less edgy bridges. Even more provocative is “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV”, picking up the mantle of the title last revisited in 1984. Here the familiar stabbing theme is played with the aggression of Thrak. Indexed as three sections on your CD player, it segues neatly into “Coda: I Have A Dream” a la a similar postscript to “VROOOM”. The guitar is a little more mainstream, but the lyric little more than an update of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” with a sadder melody. (As a bonus/advertisement, “Heaven And Earth” is a glimpse into ProjeKct X, excerpted from rehearsals and featuring the players on the album using a different approach. We’re guessing the title refers to the framing of the synth strings around the more aggressive middle.)
The ConstruKction Of Light didn’t kick down any doors, but still offered proof that Fripp hadn’t lost any of his edge over the years. If anything, the side projects, solo improv performances and vault explorations spurred him to always find something new. If you have everything else up to this point, it’s a worthy addition, but it’s not the place to start.

King Crimson The ConstruKction Of Light (2000)—3

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