It seems like we've been hearing about the reformation of King Crimson for years now. Well, the long awaited new release is finally here. The Vrooom EP consists of six tracks lasting slightly over 30 minutes - some EP! Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, and Bill Bruford are all back from Crimson's last incarnation, accompanied by new members Trey Gunn on Stick and Pat Mastelotto on drums. This effectively gives them a double power trio, and this format is used in several of the songs in a rather unique fashion, with each trio playing completely different and independent, often asynchronous, parts. It's an interesting effect, but perhaps thankfully one they don't dwell on too long.
There is really only one word to describe the music on Vrooom: HEAVY. There are elements of mid-'70s Crimson here, as well as '80s Crimson and some of the work Fripp has done since. But the end product is more intense than any of those. Crunching and wailing guitars, pounding rhythms, and processed vocals all help to create the dark, sinister mood that is only rarely interrupted by more mellow, dreamy moments. The three instrumental tracks here are the best of the bunch - dense, complex, and assuredly appetizing to Crimson fanatics. The vocal tracks are a bit more basic, though no less intense. The last track, "One Time," has a more recognizable unprocessed vocal from Belew. It's an odd one, completely out of character from the rest of the tunes. Bringing to mind perhaps some of the mellower '80s Crimson output, to my ears it is even more reminiscent of the relatively unknown US band The Samples.
Crimson fans should undoubtedly enjoy this release. There is no hint of the musical compromise or commercialization that has afflicted the other well-known dinosaur prog-rock groups. As for others, well, if you haven't liked Crimson in the past you probably still won't.
(Originally published in Expose #6, p. 32-33, Edited for Gnosis
What a pleasant surprise. After just a minute of the opening title track, it's clearly apparent that this is no rehash of the '80s incarnation of Crimson. This double-trio formation (2 guitars, 2 drummers, 2 bassists) shreds through killer guitar riffs alternating with a shimmering guitar arpeggio refrain that single-handedly blows away any tune they did in the '80s.
The opening track 'Vrooom' is a welcome return to a Red-type instrumental energy, perhaps fueled by the more acoustic drumming of Pat Mastelotto and Bill Bruford. Next up is the almost funky Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, which has the same power, plus some shocking distorted vocal crooning which does border too closely on the unpleasant. The one-and-a-half minute 'Cage' is a smoking narrative comprised of three main lines which repeat once. Can you say Primus? Crimson can, and while it never seemed they would sound so similar to a modern band, it works nevertheless. 'Thrak' is a dissonant, free-form heavy improv which again has more of a '70s Crimson mentality, and it only works marginally well, as it did then. This degenerates into 'When I Say Stop, Continue,' a lower-key electronic exploration with plenty of guitar effects (but no synth whatsoever). The closer is 'One Time,' and it's the only tune on the album where Adrian Belew does some true melodic singing. While this song would have been right at home on 'Beat,' it is somewhat of an inconclusive ending here despite the catchy melody and fresh chord progression which drives it.
Engineered and mixed by David Bottrill at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios, the sound is rich and clean, without the coldness that plagued the three '80s albums. Fripp and Belew work incredibly well with each other, but Bruford and Mastelotto do very little off of each other and Levin and Gunn do next to nothing. But the biggest flaw with Vrooom is the total time. Half an hour of this stuff isn't enough. Highly recommended.
(Originally published in Expose #6, p. 32, Edited for Gnosis 8/12/02)
|Jeff Melton||04-November-2001||Larks Tongues In Aspic|
In early 1972, drummer Bill Bruford had a small jam session with guitarist Robert Fripp some time during the recording sessions for Close to the Edge. Supposedly Fripp's comment on the occasion was something like "I think you're ready now to join King Crimson". Bruford subsequently jumped from Yes to Crimson on the eve of Yes' US tour. Bassist John Wetton (ex-Family and Mogul Thrash) had been invited to join the Islands line-up but, for some reason, turned down the opportunity. Together these two players, along with violinist David Cross and percussionist Jamie Muir provided the footing for one of the fiercest improvising units. The album contains six tracks that successfully reinvented the band and placed the album arguably on an equal par with the band's debut release. The control of dynamics and odd instrumentation is indicated from the first few kalimba notes by Muir on the title track, part one. The album contains a mid-tempo ballad, "Book of Saturday," and power ballad "Exiles," which closed out the end of what used to be side one. "Easy Money" showed the potential of the group to span the bridge between heavy metal and jazz. The closing two segued pieces, "The Talking Drum/Larks Tongues Part Two" are 100% classic Crimson with the ensemble performing with break neck prowess and precision. The album is simply an auspicious rebirth of a band that was on the downward spiral and then bounced back to supercede the original incarnation.
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