I bought this because Henry Rollins was always raving about the brilliance of Adrian Belew (ROLLINS!).
Going into this, I’d heard of King Crimson but hadn’t taken the time to play any of their stuff.
Am I ever glad I did! I’ve never heard any other record like this one – and I’ve heard a lot of records, over all these years. But first, let’s have a look at the players…
Belew is joined by:
Robert Fripp (whose complete discography includes more than 700 releases over four decades).
Tony Levin (who has played on over 500 albums since the 70s).
Bill Bruford (Genesis, among others).
As well as:
Trey Gunn (Tool, Puscifer, Vernon Reid, John Paul Jones, Eric Johnson, Trey Gunn Band, among others).
and Pat Mastelotto (Mr. Mister, Rembrandts, even Kim Mitchell’s Rockland album).
In other words, there’s a boatload of talent here!
And now… the record itself…
Wiki says “This album was recorded in the “double trio” format of King Crimson. With the band consisting of two guitarists, two bassists and two drummers the opening track begins with all six musicians in the center of the mix. Then as the track gets going they are split into two trios (guitar, bass and drums) with three going to the left channel and three going to the right.” Cool!
And how do I describe everything that’s going on here? It’s like the future has come back to us, here in their past, and is using their advanced music capabilities to play old tribal society tunes directly into our brains via telepathy. Or maybe this is a soundtrack to some (slightly messed-up) movie from the 90s where plaid-clad grunge warriors tilt against the cruel world around them. It’s like jazz, metal, funk and electronica met in a bar, got hammered together, and played in a studio all night while the tape never stopped rolling. Actually, it’s all three… and more…
What a massive sound, instruments all over the place doing interesting things, pulling your ear and brain here and there, but yet all of it still working together to make cohesive songs. The sense of balance is incredible, given everything going on.
The songs themselves are time signature workouts and experimental (seemingly) improvisational explorations. The string sections are beautiful, as are the ballads, and the instrumentals, and there’s a lot of really heavy riffing going on here, too, which was really satisfying. Throw in drums solos and trippy space-out synth-like sections, and you’re starting to get a wee glimpse of some of this stuff. But for all of this, there’s no clutter. Everyone leaves space for everyone else, and it all shines.
Honestly, I probably shouldn’t even be writing this post. Not yet. I’ve only been through the whole album once, and that is nowhere near enough to feel like I’ve even scratched the surface of some of this stuff. There are so many beautiful passages of music, and also so many that are more challenging, and I get the feeling that this record is going to stick in my head for a long time to come, and each future listen will teach me yet more about it.