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King Crimson - The ConstruKction Of Light CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.14 | 781 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars King Crimson used to play progressive rock back in the days when it was plausible to be heard on the radio doing so, but now they play future world music of a kind they were only rehearsing on Discipline - having written nursery rhymes for the muted electric gamelan in the past, maturing musically through the experience, they now concern themselves with anthems.

However, this can be taken equally as pop music. People in the forums are always saying that there's a time for prog and there's a time for a good pop tune and, for me, this is what I often reach for during those latter circumstances. I'm not trying to be clever here - although The ConstruKction of Light is a stubborn knot of logarithmic note choice and sly self-referentialism/deferentialism rendered in an oppressive and contrarian atmosphere, some elusive quality of the album renders it an effortless and inviting listen; to this reviewer a much more visceral and genuine set of songs than any combination culled from the '80s repetoire, the era supposedly possessing of a great popular appeal.

There are three self-sufficient songs here (along with two more to be found clinging to the end of longer pieces) and each of them differs from any previous KC pop snapshots. A quick listen of ProzaKc Blues defeats all criticism of the album from the recycling angle and from people who take everything they need to know about a song from it's title - hands up if you've ever *really* heard another blues like this one. No? Moreover, the song hints at what's coming next in ways other than musical - as we do further on, we can observe snatches of vulgarity intellectualised, a density of guitar-play that hinges on common dissonance taken a small step too far for comfort and, happily, a lack of cliches... excluding Belew's ironic blues mannerisms, used purely to evoke the image of a washed-up rockstar (to help you forget that Fripp represents one of the most eloquent and intellectual rock musicians on the circuit?) sleazing his way through a narcotic performance. Or more to the point, it makes you think of Greg Lake.

Frying Pan seems like the alternative universe Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, or however they ordered that title, in that it combines queasy, stumbling sung sections with manic instrumental ones. Still, the music is totally different and, again, is a small step towards abrasiveness. The lyrics on this one aren't particularly good, which is disappointing but not unexpected. Maybe it could be here where it occurs to you that this is album is designed for people who have listened to other King Crimson albums, which highlights exactly what they've taken away - the comfort zone, a soma sheen which puts a lot of their jazz notes in context. As the song proceeds, you may realise that you never needed it anyway; when you reach the short soundscape outro you notice that it is jarring as those on THRAK never were. Oyster Soup, which THRAKs in opposition, is a circular jam of the sort designed for pub rock encores, but which also exists to irritate you with composed clumsiness, manic sampling and inappropriate use of midi-guitar, and semi-associative nonsense word-game lyrics to the point where you must be listening, a hair shirt for the ears which tempers you in preparation for the next chapter in the Crimso epic...

As in his interviews, Fripp won't patronise you while you're demonstrating some degree of thoughtfulness. We all know the band have trouble catching their live majesty well on CD, so during the instrumental numbers, Crimso attempt to bridge the gap between situations by drafting you as their fifth player (of course, this is a guess as to the intentions of the band, but transforming locked music into conceptual semi-improv was always the KC way - doesn't it make a certain amount of sense?) - most of the music on the album toys with aggressive rhythmic pointillism, which is perfect if you're in the mood to insert a mental solo or two, while Mastoletto's frosty electronic battery fills the overhead frequencies with cosmic rays rather than cymbal shimmer and his choice of sounds has a primal, deadening effect but frees up a lot of space - considering the effort that must go into the composition and performance of his drum parts, it's a gesture of humility. Is your imagination ambidextrous to the point where it can play lead guitar with one and tambourine in the other?

That paragraph gives the impression that the music remains unfinished, but that'd be a lazy criticism to make - perhaps you as a listener prefer to witness the constant struggle between guitarists to only play notes which don't cheapen the previous ones, and that's fine too. Or you can concentrate on the subversive rhythms which bear little relation to rock - there's a cute juxtaposition here that forces the guitarists to worry about patterns, allowing the bassist and drummer to define the music however they like - but however you approach the album, be aware that this is a prototype for new music; perhaps it's easier to mistake for a re-hash because no-one has heard anything *from the future* to compare The ConstruKction of Light with? It doesn't matter - just remember that every time you hear a lyrical reference to the past, it's sung over explorative music.

Larks Tongues part four ends with a moment of power that caps the album, providing seriousness when you're beginning to tire of, ahem, frippance. One part My Way and one part The Atrocity Exhibition, the coda's most melodic moments become bittersweet, polluted with a spoken film-reel namecheck of one human tragedy after another. You can decide whether the album is defeatist or futurist in conception when a piercing laser tone closes the song - is that suggestive of a construKcted beam of light? (and, was it emitted by a large explosion?)

Go get this album if: a) you have ears or b) you know someone who has ears. If you've heard it and consigned it to the vaults then please give it another chance - more than any other KC album, The ConstruKction of Light is unforgiving to people who aren't listening and greatly rewarding - even enlightening - to those who are. Five stars awarded to an expressionist statement in a sea of modern impressionism.

laplace | 5/5 |


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