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King Crimson - Heavy ConstruKction CD (album) cover

HEAVY CONSTRUKCTION

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

3.56 | 76 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This year 2000 box set is one of only a few live albums from King Crimson released while the band was still active: quite an achievement for a group that can typically wait years (or even decades) before defining itself with archival live recordings.

Apparently this time the Crimson King couldn't wait for history to catch up with such cutting edge music, recorded on the European tour promoting their prematurely titled "ConstruKction of Light" album. That studio effort was really more of a schematic blueprint, and clearly needed the stimulus of live performance to give the music shape and structure, a familiar complaint throughout the band's uncertain history.

There's an imposing grandeur to the completed edifice, constru(K)cted with a deftness of touch and clarity of sound that lifts it head and shoulders above its studio forefather. Songs that once were unrelentingly oppressive here at last achieve the lightness promised in the original album title, albeit in a loud and often very aggressive fashion.

Listen to the seething juggernaut of the concert opener (the aptly titled "Into the Frying Pan") for proof, or the crashing metallic epiphany of "The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum", featuring some absolutely ferocious soloing from Robert Fripp. Even the whacked-out rhythms of "ProzaKc Blues" sound looser and more alive (obviously) than in the studio.

And it's a generous package too: three discs, one of them enhanced with a concert video (more about that later). The first two CDs document a more or less complete show, seamlessly grafted together from several different gigs. Notable stops along the way (besides those mentioned above) include a rare performance of Adrian Belew's EP-only dystopian rap "Cage"; an unplugged "Three of a Perfect Pair", with Belew on solo acoustic guitar; and an unexpected encore: the popular David Bowie anthem "Heroes", a personal touchstone for both of Crimson's guitarists (was it recorded at the group's Berlin show?).

But the high point of any King Crimson concert is always the group improvisations, boldly reasserted by this line-up after being somewhat neglected in the earlier Double-Trio. Several examples are included on the first and second discs, but the real treat for the true, forward-thinking Crimson fanatic can be found in Disc Three: a collection of hyper-drive post-millennium techno-grooves, collated from throughout the tour and presented as a sort of alternative, totally unscripted King Crimson gig. Remember ProjeKct X? Consider this a preview of ProjeKcts Y and Z, led by the indefatigable virtual drumming and Warr guitar basslines of arguably the most creative Crimson rhythm team ever (an issue fit for a Prog Archives poll if ever there was one).

The bonus video footage on Disc Two is merely that: a fascinating but hardly essential bonus to an already complete package. No one would ever mistake it for a polished production (blame the artfully underlit stage, for one thing), but it gives fans a chance to see the band in action, even the elusive Mr. Fripp, who typically hides on his stool in the darkest wings of the stage. But not even such a notorious wallflower can evade the probing eye of the camera lens, and together with Adrian Belew he conducts a jaw-dropping guitar clinic on several numbers (in order of performance: a stunning rhythm-and-soundscape improv; "Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part IV"; "Cage"; "The World's My Oyster Soup etc"; "Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream"; and "Vroom").

Some final thoughts to an already overlong review: maybe the mighty Crimson King should have long ago abandoned their studio work to concentrate strictly on live performance and recording. This is a band that historically has always (repeat: always) put its best foot forward on stage, often up the backside of the unwary listener during some of the heavier songs. The so-called Double-Duo proved it yet again here, and in the process revealed itself as the equal to any Crimson line-up on record.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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