King Crimson: Celebrating 50 Years of Hot Dates in Concert

King Crimson, Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, Chicago Illinois, September 10, 2019.  (Featured photo by King Crimson manager David Singleton.)

“Expectation is a prison.”  Robert Fripp says that a lot.

He said it again this past Tuesday in Chicago.  Specifically, to about sixty fans who had paid a lot of cash for a King Crimson pre-concert VIP package.  Even more specifically, to one particularly zealous fan, who nervously, repeatedly begged Fripp to reveal if “Cat Food” was on the evening’s setlist.

Fripp wasn’t biting.  Having already pivoted from reflections on music’s ability to change the world and the necessity for presence in the musical event (like an abbot exhorting his monastic chapter) to “wittering” on the disadvantage of playing guitar while seated (“pimples on my arse”, spoken with the endearing delivery of a bawdy rock-and-roll Mr. Magoo), his response was firm, but simple: when you don’t know what’s coming next, consider it a challenge to pay more attention.  And to be more present.  Then Fripp let us take his picture while he took ours; manager David Singleton teased another possible US tour next summer (he deliberately doesn’t look at the setlist); and bassist Tony Levin engaged in a much lighter Q&A session (but he wasn’t telling, either).

As blunt as Fripp frequently is, his admonition came in handy Tuesday night.  This is the third time I’ve seen the current version of King Crimson live, and the personal temptation to tune out in anticipation of repetition from previous years (even seated in the center of the sixth row) was surprisingly persistent.  Fortunately, Fripp and friends weren’t about to let the sold-out, 4000-strong audience off the hook; the evening swiftly turned into another hot date with one of the best working bands in the world.

Continue reading “King Crimson: Celebrating 50 Years of Hot Dates in Concert”

Travis & Fripp Appdate

From Discipline Global Mobile:

Three new [IPhone/IPad] apps featuring Theo Travis & Robert Fripp go on sale today.

Each app features a different selection of performances by Travis and Fripp, contrasting in mood and key. This trilogy recreates the unpredictable dynamics of live performance, creating a new experience on each listen.

The three apps utilise a wide selection of performances by the pair ingeniously designed to work together in infinite permutations. Both Travis and Fripp have recorded brand new music for the apps in the studio in 2018, but these performances blend and combine with others gathered from live multi-tracks from the albums: Live at Coventry Cathedral, Thread, Discretion and Between the Silence (2018 3CD) and also concert recordings from Malaga, Madrid, Newlyn, Rome, Broad Chalke and the Bath Festival.

Developed by [Burning Shed founder] Peter Chilvers, who has previously collaborated with Brian Eno on the apps Bloom, Trope and Reflection, each recombines a selection of performances painstaking assembled by Travis from multi-track recordings from over a decade of collaboration, enabling old performances to mix with new, studio recordings to mix with live, and exclusive unreleased material to play with familiar performances.

The apps present a unique type of performance of musical texture and space, the building of long slow melodies, and the creation of slowly shifting harmonic soundscapes. Once the apps are started they will play continuously allowing endless performances by this remarkable duo.

As DGM head honcho David Singleton says in his latest diary entry:

[The apps feature] improvisations and multiple layers that will randomize in glorious ways to create a unique performance every time you listen.

Anyone who has been reading my diaries will know that I am something of a “broken record” in my passion to liberate music from the single “frozen recording” into something more fresh and exciting. Not computer-generated music, which holds limited appeal for me, but recordings no longer frozen into a single artefact …

This is not for everyone, or for all music … I am a huge fan of the well-made recording. But just imagine if you did not have to choose between a number of different, but equally good, guitar solos. Or vocal takes. Or drum parts. They could be subtly combined so that you captured an extended present moment. Perhaps think animated GIF, not a full movie. Here’s to dreaming! In the meantime, anyone listening to the Travis & Fripp Apps will be hearing something that no-one has heard before or will ever hear again.

Not unlike a King Crimson concert …

Having been a stone fan of Robert Fripp’s ambient efforts since I attended a 1979 Frippertronics performance at Detroit’s Peaches Records, I give all three of these apps my heartiest recommendation.  Firing them all up today provided a marvelous musical experience while going about my daily business, reading, writing a blog post — or just relaxing and letting two master players do their thing in ways even they didn’t anticipate at the time …

— Rick Krueger

soundstreamsunday: “Starless” by King Crimson

kingcrimsonKing Crimson appeared in 1969 as an island, on the far side of the bridge joining a tiring psychedelic scene to a studied, if no less freaky (for its age), “progressive” rock.  In its nearly fifty years the group’s membership has drifted in and out through orbits around guitarist Robert Fripp, his steady hand and heart dissolving and reforming Crimson as there is music for it to play.  As Fripp assembled the band’s third incarnation, Crimson was riding a wave of popularity the rewards of which didn’t settle entirely well with him, and in promising a more difficult, rockier terrain he was able to lure drummer Bill Bruford, looking for a similar fresh start, from megaprog juggernaut Yes.  With violinist David Cross and bassist/vocalist John Wetton, the band created three albums in quick succession, ranking among their diverse best.  1974’s Red, the last of the trio, is an able summation of Crimson to that point, before Fripp forcibly retired the band (he would let Crimson lie dormant until a brilliant, left-field return in 1981).  The music is a metallic, abrasive take on contemplating the dying of the light, its mood no doubt reflecting Fripp’s, and his band’s, growing uneasiness.

In its lyric, “Starless” is an extension of the previous album’s title, Starless and Bible Black,  but the resemblance more-or-less ends there.  It has more in common with the grandeur of Crimson’s first record, In the Court of the Crimson King, mellotrons drifting into Fripp’s signature sustained tones, with Wetton’s vocal part an overtly dramatic (such was Wetton’s m.o., but here it works) preamble to a long instrumental passage as heavy a piece of jazz metal fusion as has ever been created.  For all his professorial demeanor and seriousness, Fripp loves a good stoner riff, and the tension he can build around such beasts — harmonic, exploratory — separates him from the pack.  Brainy, yes, but beguiling, gorgeous, devastating.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

David Bowie’s Berlin Years, Boxed

The next David Bowie box set, A New Career in a New Town, is coming on September 29. This one covers 1977-1982 (Bowie’s last years on the RCA label), including the “Berlin Trilogy” and other notable collaborations with prog rockers.  Contents on 11 CDs or 13 LPs:

  • Low (with Brian Eno)
  • Heroes (with Eno and Robert Fripp).  A EP of foreign-language versions of the title track is also included.
  • Stage (with the pre-King Crimson Adrian Belew and Roger Powell of Utopia in Bowie’s live band) in 2 versions: the original album and the 2005 version (with songs in the concert running order & bonus tracks, including 2 new ones).
  • Lodger (with Eno, Belew and Powell ) in 2 versions: the original album and a new remix by Tony Visconti (exclusive to the box).
  • Scary Monsters (with Fripp).
  • A new exclusive compilation, Re:Call 3, which includes singles, B-sides, extended versions, and Bowie’s collaborations with Bing Crosby and Queen.

This is my favorite period of Bowie, so I’m genuinely excited for this release.  Lots more details and a price tracker at Paul Sinclair’s marvelous Super Deluxe Edition website.

 

soundstreamsunday: “Live in Japan 1993” by David Sylvian and Robert Fripp

sylvianfrippFinding abandon in structure is what rock is about, but it’s rarely approached with such intentional power as on the live sets that Robert Fripp and David Sylvian played in Japan in 1993, which make up the album Damage and the film presented here, Road to Graceland: Live in Japan 1993. It’s not surprising that one of the great live albums in rock would come from a duo whose very distinct songwriting and voices meshed with such ease, but the precious vein they mined yielded such a small set of work and such little attention — after all, art rock/pop in the early 90s was in a far different place in the popular consciousness than it had been a decade earlier — that the record is nearly invisible today even if you’re fairly well-acquainted with the careers of both men.  This is neither In the Court of the Crimson King (or Discipline) or Gentleman Take Polaroids (or Rain Tree Crow), but a striving towards something that summed higher, capturing two artists with deep histories and still in their prime.  Fripp’s work here, as always, is masterful; a guitarist whose technical ability is matched by a uniquely creative sound and spirit and generosity, he creates space for Sylvian’s profoundly expressive voice and writing.  Sylvian, in turn, doesn’t fill the frame either, yielding his significant presence when necessary to the outstanding band he’s playing with.  This is my favorite pairing of Fripp with a vocalist, because as much as I like the work he did in King Crimson with Adrian Belew in the 80s and John Wetton in the 70s, he and Sylvian have a chemistry that gets to the center of their strengths, and, appropriately — given Fripp’s brief but incendiary participation in the Berlin Trilogy — summons the work of Eno and Bowie.  With Fripp familiars Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, and Michael Brook on additional guitar, the band kills, in a performance as intimate and deep as the emotions and moods that Sylvian and Fripp stir.

soundstreamsunday archive and playlist

CRAK-ing open the THRAK BOX

John Kelman writes regular reviews at my favorite jazz site, AllAboutJazz.com–and he appears to have probably forgotten more about King Crimson than most of us know about the legendary (and still very active) prog band. Here is the opening of his detailed and excellent review of King Crimson’s THRAK BOX: Live and Studio Recordings 1994-1997:

King Crimson: King Crimson: THRAK BOX - Live and Studio Recordings 1994-1997

After three years spent extensively focusing on its 1972-’74 lineup—documented over a massive 66 CDs, DVDs and Blu Rays (plus some additional downloads) on Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (40th Anniversary Series Box) (Panegyric, 2012); The Road to Red(Panegyric, 2013); and Starless (Panegyric, 2014)—King Crimson turns the clock ahead 20 years to an almost completely different lineup, a radically different sound and a far more unwieldy six-piece incarnation dubbed “the double trio” on THRAK BOX: King Crimson Live and Studio Recordings 1994- 1997. Like its predecessors, the box is part of the group’s ongoing 40th Anniversary Series, which began in 2009 with the release of new stereo and surround sound mixes of the progressive rock progenitor’s earth-shattering 1969 debut, In the Court of the Crimson King, its highly influential 1975 studio swan song for the ’72-’74 group, Red and the divisive album that series remixer (until now) Steven Wilson dubbed “the album that stereo couldn’t contain,” 1970’s now more recognized classic, Lizard. As usual, alongside the box sets come CD/DVD-a sets with the new mixes, original mixes, and a smaller collection of bonus material.

Unlike the three boxes from the past three years, however, THRAK BOX was constructed with a different purpose in mind. Those previous boxes—while each containing the studio (or more accurately, in the case of Road to Red, studio/live conglomeration) or live album that was its core raison d’être—focused more heavily on live recordings: largely audio only and ranging from low to high fidelity, and sourced from audience bootleg cassettes, soundboard recordings and full, professional multi-track tapes.

Recording technology had come a long way, in terms of portability, ease and cost in the two decades separating the ’72-’74 lineup from the double trio that expanded the ’80s Crimson lineup of guitarist Robert Fripp, guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew, bassist/Stick player Tony Levin and electro-acoustic drummer/percussionist Bill Bruford with two younger newcomers: Stick/Warr guitarist Trey Gunn and another electro-acoustic drummer/percussionist, Pat Mastelotto. Both newcomers came to the group through associations with Fripp: his Guitar Craft classes and/or the King Crimson co-founder’s collaboration with singer/songwriter David Sylvian on 1993’s The First Day and/or its live follow-up, ’94’s Damage. Every note the group made was recorded…and in high fidelity. Releasing a box like the Larks’ Tongues box—which included every known note played by the band (more to the point: every known note recorded by the group, which was far from all-inclusive)—would not just be an absurdly oversized box that would dwarf those that came before, it would have served no real purpose.

The double trio represented a more decided return to being an improvisational band after King Crimson’s largely form-focused ’80s incarnation, of which only one of its three studio recordings has, thus far, received the 40th Anniversary treatment: 1981’s groundbreaking Discipline, which introduced an entirely different Crimson, featuring the group’s sole remaining founding member (Fripp) and the only holdover from the ’72-’74 group, (Bruford). But the double trio was still heavily predicated on structure—whether it was blistering instrumentals or some of the most radio-friendly songs Crimson had released to date—and so a box containing a large number of live recordings would simply have been overkill.

And so, instead, THRAK BOX is a set of 12 CDs, two DVDs (one audio, one video) and two Blu Rays (also one audio, one video) that tells as complete a story of the 1994-1997 King Crimson as any pathological Crimhead would need, ranging from the early early studio recordings that resulted in, as Fripp called it, the 1994 calling card VROOOM EP, which also suggested that this new incarnation was going to be, quite possibly, the densest, most angular and most flat-out aggressive Crimson yet, to (in addition to the 2002 remaster of the double trio’s only full-length studio recording) new stereo and surround sound mixes of 1995’s THRAK—this time done by current Crimson guitarist/vocalist/flautistJakko M. Jakszyk, with input and approval from/by Fripp.

“King Crimson: Live At The Orpheum” = 5 Stars

It’s not surprising that AllAboutJazz.com, one of the best jazz sites out there, will occasionally review albums that aren’t fully or even remotely jazz. But it may be a bit surprising how often the site features reviews of prog albums. But jazz and prog have a lot in common, not least the interplay of tradition and innovation, composition and improvisation, individuality and group interplay. Oh, and the curious fact that no one is really able to provide a succinct, satisfactory definition of either “jazz” or “prog”. And, of course, many prog groups and artists have feet in both worlds; names such Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, Jean-Luc Ponty, and King Crimson come to mind (there are many others). Speaking of King Crimson, the band’s newest release, “Live At The Orpheum,” rates a 5 star review from AllAboutJazz.com’s John Kelman, whose encyclopedic knowledge of the band is evident in his detailed review:

Based on the group’s two-night run at San Francisco’s legendary The Warfield, the groundswell of support was not just well-deserved; this was, it turns out, one of the best Crimson lineups ever…perhaps, even, the best, with the possible exception of the ’72-’74 lineup recently documented in the third of three consecutive box sets to be released in as many years, Starless (Panegyric, 2014). This was a Crimson that may have been taking a good look back at its long legacy but this was no retro band; King Crimson 2014 was truly, well, as 21st century as they come. kingcrimson_liveattheorpheum

There’s even an argument to be made that despite the mid-’70s Crim’s reputation as fearless and often ear-splitting improvisers, King Crimson 2014 is an even better unit because, with the addition of Collins’ reed and woodwinds and three drummers who also bring electronics and, in the case of Rieflin, keyboards to the mix, this is a group that can play virtually anything from the group’s 45-year repertoire, and do it in ways that previous, smaller incarnations could not—all with perfect intuition and dynamics. Jakszyk is a singer and guitarist who, while as riveting and talented as Belew, is a more integrated band member than his immediate predecessor, whose presence somehow seemed to dominate every incarnation he was in over the course of nearly three decades. Not that Belew’s dominance was necessarily a bad thing, but it was, in some ways, self-limiting. And with Levin back, the group has a groove-heavy bassist capable of everything from Chapman stick and fretted and fretless basses to upright bass. Like Levin, it would seem that King Crimson 2014 has the chops to do just about anything.

A truth made all the more clear on Live at the Orpheum, the new line-up’s first official release, recorded during its two-night Los Angeles run prior to moving north to San Francisco. It’s a great reminder to those who saw the tour just how special this incarnation was, while allowing those unable to catch the shows to get some idea of what all the hubbub was about.

There will inevitably be those who will criticize co-producers Jakszyk and Fripp’s decision notto include an entire performance but, instead, make it a vinyl-length recording—the double-disc CD version also includes the stereo mix in 24/96 Hi-Res on a DVD-A—that only includes about a third of the group’s live set. But there are two approaches to compiling a live release. One, the relatively easy route, is to present a full show (or a composite taken from multiple nights) that may represent the overall best performances while still containing all the inevitable minor imperfections that are part and parcel of any live performance—barely noticed, if at all, at the time but, with a permanent document, there to be heard time and again. The other, a more time and work-intensive approach, involves listening to each show’s multitrack tapes in minute detail to identify the absolute best performances and then make any necessary minor (but not necessarily quick or easy) adjustments to remove those imperfections, creating a document capable of standing up to detailed scrutiny and of more lasting quality. A show, after all, is a fleeting thing, while a recording is intrinsicallypermanent.

Clearly Crimson opted for quality over quantity, but that meant, with just three months between the tour’s end and the release of Live at the Orpheum, the work required to sift through hundreds of hours of high resolution multi-tracks may simply have been too great to manage anything more than its 41 minutes.

Based on the end result, however, Live at the Orpheum more precisely documents how King Crimson 2014 sounded; rather than a “warts and all” live recording put together on the quick, it suits—and, perhaps most importantly, respects—the detail, complexity and unbridled energy of the group’s shows.

Read the entire review.