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


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 2977 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review 28, Larks Tongues In Aspic, King Crimson, 1973


This is not only the King Crimson album, but the album. Experimental in the extreme, flawless throughout, continually providing challenges, bizarre visions and layers for the listener. From the gentle xylophone-led opening to its swelling, tidal conclusion, we move through several styles and atmospheres, emotion flowing freely from all the musicians. Not an album to be judged instantly, and one that needs a lot of time, consideration and energy to appreciate to its fullest, but . I love every single second of it, can't bring myself to question the validity of the pieces, and can attach an idea, a flowing vision, sane or not, to each moment.

Larks' Tongues In Aspic part one begins with a gentle xylophone, which continues with some unusual variations on the basic idea and some tingling and ascending percussion and humming mellotron additions, gradually and calmly building a soundscape of fragrant and exotic ideas. The tingling percussion gives way to a mantric violin, a snarling guitar from Fripp, and a combination of manic percussion gives way to a burst of raw guitar aggression. Swirling variations on the guitar and fanatical mellotron lead up to a second and equally powerful emotional explosion. Fripp contributes a curious, intricate solo while the percussionists and John Wetton combine forces to add an even richer exoticism. Next we are treated to a demonically inspired rhythm section showcase with Fripp providing some accompanying driven guitar reminiscent of Sailor's Tale. Suddenly everything disappears, leaving David Cross's lone violin dreaming out some distant romance. A harp-like sound drifts in, before the gentle violin vanishes to German voices, a forceful violin and driving Bruford percussion, Fripp shows up on both acoustics and electrics as the piece glides along to a beautiful percussion end. Fully progressive, with no seams or rifts between the soft or loud sections. No bridges required, no moments of relaxation, just pure musical ideas. Jamie Muir's title describes the piece perfectly, an exotic journey from start to finish.

Book Of Saturday follows in on the gentle end of Larks', with a crystalline acoustic guitar part weaving into John Wetton's heartfelt bass and a delicate, virtuoso violin. John Wetton's clear, distintive vocals convey the real sense of loss and uncertainty from Richard Palmer-James gorgeous lyrics. The careful interplay between the three musicians is flawless throughout, developing ideas, . Gorgeous violin brings the song to a close.

The chaotic opening of the lengthier Exiles, with its distorted mellotron-voices and wedges of thick sound, conveys another, almost-martial atmosphere, a forceful segregation from society. A strong violin and cymbal-touches lead in to the main theme, combining an improvised violin with a humming bass that seems to alter the emphasis of the violin, a full, yet unobtrusive drum part from Bruford (I presume), and some dancing acoustics from Fripp. Richard Palmer-James lyrics are richly sung by Wetton. As the song continues, we move through a number of ideas, receiving tragic solos from Fripp (on electrics) and Cross. A tragic mellotron build-up more reminiscent of Epitaph leads to a curious acoustic from Fripp. There's a real feeling of absence of definition. Deserted, empty, echoing, and emotional. Another absolute masterpiece.

Easy Money leaps sarcastically in, providing an opportunity for Jamie Muir (and indeed the whole band) to have some more fun with his bizarre percussion. John Wetton provides a thick, jumpy bass sound, while Bruford experiments with a more hollow percussion set and Fripp flexes his sense of humour with some self-parodying solos. David Cross is presumably responsible for the gleeful mellotron-butchery we see in places. The band slowly and carefully escalate from the sparse punchiness of the song's first part through a complete instrumental workout to a masterly return, with Wetton's exuberant vocals and a typically bizarre Cross violin striking out over a development of the earlier verse. A mad laugh brings the song to its conclusion. Great music, and I suspect the musicians had as much fun making it as I did listening to it. Masterpiece.

The Talking Drum took the longest of any of the pieces to make its impression on me. Still, it has done so, with a fast bongo and Wetton's bass, which manages to provide the illusion of consistency, leaving room for Cross and Fripp to improvise powerfully over the top with sometimes independent and sometimes intertwined ideas. The piece develops gradually with Wetton and Bruford/Muir giving increasingly heavier and more substantial sections. Not at all easy for me to describe, but truly brilliant.

Suddenly, Larks' Tongues In Aspic pt. 2 breaks in with its thick guitar riff and a shapeshifting rhythm section that doesn't stay still. The parts change so frequently that it's futile to list the changes. Wetton takes a brief bass solo as well as being the vehicle for a lot of the changes in the music. Muir gets to play around with metal sheets, among other things, creating a spiralling percussion duo. David Cross gives out the some of the strangest sounds I've ever heard on a violin, squeaking dissonantly. The heavily-rocking song slowly builds up to the most bloated, powerful conclusion I've yet heard, throbbing out with everyone contributing. A piece where the subtleties may initially be hidden by the sheer noise, but once they reveal themselves, they'll delight on every single relisten.

Rating: Six Stars. This is my favourite album. A quintessential masterpiece of prog rock.

Favourite Track: All of them, but Larks' Tongues In Aspic pt. 1 and Exiles might be chosen if I'm forced to pick.

Warning: I don't have the intelligence to distinguish between a violin and a viola. My review may be compromised.

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |


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