Friday, November 5, 2010

I'm not sure if I'll be coming back

Since there's nothing sadder on the internet than a blog or website whose owner says that he's on hiatus and that hasn't been updated in years, I decided to say that I'm not planning on coming back to the blog anytime soon. I may come back sometime in the future to update some recent releases from bands I've already covered, but I just don't have much inspiration as of late and I'm working on some other stuff in my free time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Taking more time off

I'm having a lot of trouble getting inspiration as of late, so I'm going to take another hiatus- this one indefinite. It's just like I have a sword of Damocles over my head with my blog updates, and I'm just worrying about them all the time. I feel like I need some more time off so I don't go crazy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

King Crimson - The Power to Believe

7/10

The Power to Believe, like some of the albums that preceded it, is a bit derivative of Crimson's earlier albums, but it's still a decent listen. Level Five is another reincarnation of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, but this one has a lot of interesting sounds that weren't in any of the other versions, while The Power to Believe II evokes the gamelan songs from the band's 80's work. Some parts of this album are startlingly effective, though- the a cappella intro is amazingly good, with its effective use of a vocoder, and Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With is a laugh riot, poking fun at the formulaic verse-chorus-verse patterns that make up so much of popular music. (It's also one of the few times since the Sinfield era that I've felt that the lyrics in a King Crimson song weren't just a throwaway.) Dangerous Curves is a pretty duff track- it's all buildup with a less-than-enthralling denouement- but what really prevents this album from getting a higher grade is that nothing here sounds that new. Most of the stuff here is fine, but just like Three of a Perfect Pair and The ConstruKction of Light, it's pretty much a rehash of earlier Crimson albums.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

King Crimson - Level Five

6/10

This is a live album that was only released at merchandise booths on Crimson's 2001 tour. It contains two songs that would show up on the band's next studio album, an orphaned improv session called "Virtuous Circle", two old songs, and a hidden track at the end. It's not too surprising that this was a minor release, as there's a definite stopgap feel to it- that said, it's perfectly enjoyable, but it's hardly an essential live album, especially given the scale of most of Crimson's live documents (in particular, this seems small and insignificant next to Heavy ConstruKction).
Unless you really want to hear the early versions of "Level Five" and "Dangerous Curves" or are a total Crimson completist, this album can be safely skipped. There's nothing really wrong with it, but there's really no compelling reason for its existence.

Monday, August 30, 2010

King Crimson - Heavy ConstruKction

8/10

The three-disc live box set Heavy ConstruKction is a considerable improvement over the album that Crimson was touring at the time. The live production is noticeably better than that on Light; the electronic drums aren't quite as annoying and the songs don't have the canned feel that their original studio versions had. There are also a bunch of interesting song choices, including some bizarre covers (David Bowie's "Heroes," the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows") and an acoustic rendition of "Three of a Perfect Pair."
But where Heavy ConstruKction really shines is in the improv sections. Disc three is made up almost entirely of improvised pieces, and they're all great; there aren't any boring quiet stretches like Moonchild or aimless noodling like on THRaKaTTaK- I wouldn't have guessed that they were making this stuff up as they went along. This set is worth a purchase for the third disc alone.

Friday, August 27, 2010

King Crimson - The ConstruKction of Light

5/10

The ConstruKction of Light heralds another lineup change, where Bruford and Levin departed, leaving the band as a regular four-piece. That didn't have a whole lot of impact on the band's sound, although the mix isn't quite as active with just one rhythm section. If anything, ConstruKction suffers from the same flaw as Three of a Perfect Pair- the material is just too derivative. "Fractured" gets a re-working as "FraKctured," in addition to a fourth part to Larks' Tongues in Aspic. Neither of these tracks do much to justify their existence- why bother rehashing songs that were perfectly fine in their original forms?
Another major flaw on the album is that Mastelotto's drums are electronic and very fake-sounding, making one pine for the day's of Bruford's wanky but natural style. The fake drums just give the whole album a very "industrial" feel, which I've never been a fan of. The rest of the band isn't particularly inspired, either, but the drums are just rancid.
I felt that the strongest tracks on the album were the non-instrumentals "ProzaKc Blues" and "The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Wax Museum" The former uses vocal filters to great effect, turning Belew's performance into a hilarious "wacky negro voice," and the band's take on the traditional blues form is a riot, while the latter is another good song in the funk-metal vein like some of the stuff on THRAK.
The ConstruKction of Light just isn't very good; it's harsh without being intriguingly so, and there's a lot of boring spaces. It's not the worst studio album by King Crimson, (that dubious honor would have to go to Islands) but it can be easily skipped.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

King Crimson - THRaKaTTaK

4/10

Yes, this is the infamous all-improv Crimson album. To tell the truth, when I listened to this for the first time, I was expecting something completely horrible, but ended up being disappointed anyway. You see, there's just enough interesting instrumentation here for a really unique sound- Fripp's soundscapes, Belew's screechy, scratchy guitar, Bruford's marimba, and even some piano- but the fact of the matter is that the players are rarely on the same page. It's not quite as cacophonous as I expected (you rarely hear all six musicians going at it at once), but it's pretty rare that the musicians' noodling coheres into anything interesting, and the fact that there are as many decent parts as there are is probably just a result of the infinite monkeys theorem.
All of these tracks except the opening and closing renditions of "THRAK" were improv sessions in the middle of live versions of "THRAK," it kind of reminds me of Frank Zappa's albums of guitar solos. However, Zappa's Guitar albums took their solos from a whole bunch of different songs, while the atmosphere on THRaKaTTaK doesn't change much from track to track (I refuse to call these improvs "songs"). Just like Islands two decades before it, THRaKaTTaK is a failure; a unique failure, but a failure nonetheless.

Monday, August 23, 2010

King Crimson - Thrak

8/10

Another decade, another Crimson. This is the "double trio" incarnation of the band, where the rhythm section of Pat Mastellotto and Trey Gunn joined the previous lineup (although to tell the truth, there weren't too many points on Thrak where I could make out more than one bass or drum kit playing at the same time).
Thrak is a pretty diverse album. There are a whole lot of instrumentals, and while some of them are quite short and underdeveloped, others are considerably better (the drum solo in "B'Boom" is great, with an awesome bass drum sound awesomely contrasting the other drums). "People" and "Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream" seem to be concessions to funk metal bands such as Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers that were popular during the mid-90's, but there's still quite a bit of 80's style Crimson in the guitars, especially the interplay between the guitar synths and more traditional tones. (At least they didn't try to follow this up with a nu-metal album- although that would have been the most hilarious trainwreck.) "Walking on Air" and "One Time" are some more laid back songs that work pretty well; I especially enjoy Belew's vocal on the former, where it almost sounds like he's channeling George Harrison or John Lennon. "Dinosaur" is also awesome, with its throwback Mellotron intro and awesome plodding rhythm.
Still, there's a bit of filler here; both of the short "Radio" and "Inner Garden" tracks could easily have been left off without losing much, and the second part of VROOOM VROOM wasn't really necessary, but Thrak is quite a fine entry to the Crimson canon nonetheless.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another vacation

I'm spending next week on vacation with my family, so I won't be doing any reviews. I'll be back to my normal schedule after I get back, though.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

King Crimson - Absent Lovers

9/10

Absent Lovers documents the last live show performed by the 80's version of the band, and it's a fine performance from all involved. Pretty much every song here is at least the equal of its original studio version, and most of the issues I had with the production on the tracks from Beat are absent here (although Bruford's electronic drums don't always sound great).
If you're interested in hearing earlier material performed by this lineup, you'll be left disappointed (the only pre-Belew songs here are Larks' Tongues Part II and Red), but this album's a great buy for anyone who doesn't want to get the 80's studio albums. I didn't like the fact that they managed to include every single track from Discipline except my favorite, "The Sheltering Sky," but that's just my personal preference. All the band members give spot-on performances, and the material is great. It's a great document of Crimson's live prowess.