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King Crimson - Larks' Tongues in Aspic CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 2976 ratings

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Mr. Soot Gremlin
4 stars This is not an album that is easily forgotten. King Crimson's music was ambitious and experimental from the start, and ITCOTCK's "Moonchild" improvisation section was almost like the beginning of one of the band's trademark explorations in music that would continue throughout the band's lifespan. Still, Lark's Tongues in Aspic is much different in sound to the early Crimson albums, perhaps in the way it is so diverse. In only six pieces, the band explores a range of moods and intensities that is very rarely seen even from a progressive rock group. Even more startling is that there is a definite hard rock/metal presence in a few of the songs, which I think carried on into later Crimson works, especially some of the more recent albums like THRAK. Yet all the music is calculated, fluid, interesting, and intriguing even when improvised. I don't think there is any doubt that this Crimson lineup was one of the best in terms of improvising pieces either live or in the studio. The musicians work very well together and yet are able to push their individual skills to the max to create music that is both complex and exciting.

The first track, the instrumental "Lark's Tongues in Aspic, Part One" is almost a sampling of what you can find throughout the rest of the album. Steven Wilson, who remixed the album for its 40th Anniversary Edition (and did a great job) very rightly pointed out that the first song goes through basically "every extreme of volume in the first five minutes". This is undoubtedly true, as the legendary buildup to the main metal-like guitar theme proves. The serene, quiet sounds of Jamie Muir's small percussion items build every so slowly up into the pulsing violin riff that in turn gives way to the incredibly menacing fuzz of Robert Fripp's guitar. In my opinion, Fripp has one of the greatest guitar tones of all time, which he uses to perfect effect here. This opener is both experimental and hard rock, both classical and improvisatory, and truly is a wonderful example of King Crimson's ability to blend musical styles effortlessly.

"Book of Saturday" follows, a surprisingly short but satisfying tune driven by Fripp's clean electric guitar melodies and John Wetton's singing. Wetton proves to be a vital part of the band throughout the album by providing heartfelt vocals and solid bass playing. The melody of "Book of Saturday" is quite good and memorable, and is probably the most accessible song on the album.

"Exiles" follows with a similar sort of style and another solid melody. Yet it is also more atmospheric, due to the mysterious introduction and the melancholic violin playing behind Wetton's vocals. Overall, it is very soft, peaceful, and emotional, and does not pack too much of a punch musically. This is probably my least favorite song off the album, but it has grown on me after a little while, and I may come to like it even more eventually.

Now comes a truly startling and powerful track. "Easy Money" is proof that complex music can really rock, and can rank as one of Crimson's best ever songs. It opens with more of a bang than any other song on the album and even in its quieter sections never loses its intensity. The opening vocal melody playing over more of Fripp's hard rock riffage is nearly perfection, a truly inspired piece of music that Wetton sings with incredible power. The following lyrics are intriguing, the interplay between guitar and vocals works perfectly, and then a long section of improvisation between Wetton's bass, Fripp's fluid guitar, and the percussion accents of Bruford and Muir follows until the song returns to the original vocal melodies in a perfect circle. An amazing song, again showing the range of intensities that Crimson can go through in a single composition.

"The Talking Drum" is another instrumental which features Muir on the instrument itself and again follows a sort of fade-in structure with a grooving bassline that drives the piece. And that actually describes most of the piece; it grooves very well and gives David Cross a chance to do some nice improvisation on violin before the song segues directly into...

"Lark's Tongues in Aspic, Part Two", is the closing piece and a solely Fripp-composed piece that is very guitar heavy. It also has the heavy metal sound explored first in the opening piece and later in "Easy Money" (slightly), but of course King Crimson is not heavy metal, so the song features more varied instrumentation and complex time changes that nevertheless work perfectly.

This album in my eyes is 5 stars, yet I see how its audience could be very limited as opposed to an album like ITCOTCK, mainly because of its experimental nature and abundant improvisation. So 4 stars should be more realistic, since it is definitely a very worthy addition to the collection of anyone who enjoys more experimental prog.

Mr. Soot Gremlin | 4/5 |


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