King Crimson CD review [Discipline Mobile Globe]

Music Reviews
King Crimson CD review [Discipline Mobile Globe]
Mar 4, 2003, 01:01

KING CRIMSON The Power To Believe CD

Fluidity. More than any other modern electric beat combo I can think of, King Crimson functions primarily on the principle of fluid mechanics on multiple levels. Perhaps it's all a psycho-philosophical extension and application of its patented signature lead guitar sound. It slithers into your awareness and then back out, all sustain and shining bristles. It feels eternal, without beginning or end, as if it's a matter of the listener gaining and losing awareness of its presence rather than it stopping or starting per se.

That principle informs its standing membership as well, at least for the passed two decades. Clearly guitarist/composer Robert Fripp is the primum mobile, but the rest of the standing roster ebbs and flows in and out of active line-up from project to ProjeKCt. (The latter being the heading for the non-KC music they make together.) But always without any one member permanently joining or departing, apparently always free to come and go as they and/or Fripp please: alongside Fripp, Adrian Belew on guitar and vocals; on various percussion Pat Mastelotto and Bill Bruford; on sundry exotic stringed bass instruments, Trey Gunn and Tony Levin. On occasion, this has been a functioning sextet, though usually smaller sub-groups are struck off for varying purposes. This ensemble is always in flux, but the flux has a set array of constituent parts.

From the early 80s on, there's likewise been a particular set of stylistic ingredients combined and recombined as they move from album to album, even from song to song on a particular release and also internally within individual compositions from moment to moment. The boundaries of the group/musical “identity” functions like a stainless steel vat and bubbling therein: gamelan-style melodic/rhythmic interplay; heavy metallic blues-rooted riffing; subtle jazzy balladry. Fripp's the master chef stirring the pot with peculiarities of torque supplied by his particular cohorts on the particular occasion. A marvelous, peculiar aspect of the overall process being that separate elements never dissolve into a uniform solution but remain a gorgeously variegated swirling pepper-pot of textures and seasonings that produces endlessly variable results.

The Power To Believe is the finest application of all the above mechanisms Crimson has yielded in this century. The roster is Fripp. Belew, Gunn and Mastelotto. Over the course of the album they deploy all their best gambits and with strong and decisive composing. An especially big plus is the way they combine their myriad signature moves to create nicely involved yet pithy, pointed and ultimately highly individualized “songs.”

There had been rumors that their touring with Tool a few years back had prompted them to focus on their heavier side (ironically the Red album from the 70s is cited as key inspiration to young, heavy, savvy bands lately). “Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With” would be the fruit of that: a Titan's war-dance, gigantic muscular guitar circling menacingly mounting a relentlessly determined onslaught of monstrous, forcibly fractalized blues licks

Other numbers like “Level Five” and “Facts Of Life” start as heavy, with gigantic but artfully, braided guitar figures purposefully tromping across dark brooding soundscapes. Then suddenly they break into a free free-fall ballet of tumbling contrapuntal leads, Fripp and Belew playing as fast and loose with tempo and tune as they dare without the song's fabric unraveling. Fucking exhilarating. “Eyes Wide Open” is calmer and lusher. Jazzy chords are laid over simmering cross rhythms while Belew croons poignantly. It's an iridescent spume riding soft waves as they head for a deserted shoreline late, deep in the night. “The Power To Believe III” is an opalescent Frippertronic reverie that's suddenly taunted by cheeky acoustic bass and gradually disperses into gamelan-style chiming and chirping that finally finds its way back to the original guitarscape.

The Power To Believe is marvelously restless, it continually unfolds in apt yet unpredictable ways from one cut to the next as well as in the course of each individual song in its turn, as previously noted. The final affect is endlessly inventive, mysterious yet seductive. This is likely to be the most satisfying electric music you'll hear this year. [Discipline Mobile Globe/Sanctuary/BMG]

-Howard W

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