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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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5 stars "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" is quite possibly King Crimson's greatest albums in terms of sheer experimentality. With a whole new line-up to their previous post-psychedelic one-off "Islands" two years before, the band is given a brand new signature sound, arguably their best. With Bill Bruford undeniably expert drumming, retreating from the more melodic Yes, Jamie Muir's certifiably insane stage antics in what can just about be called percussion, David Cross - a keen violinist with a certain twisted childlike technique of playing (although very professional) - and John Wetton, formerly of Family to furthermore take King Crimson's music into a whole new world, with his slightly raspy vocals and one of the most recognisable bass sounds. The only real drawback about such an imaginative, alternative work is that you have to be in the right frame of mind to indulge into it but that's about it really! This album marks the beginning of a string of great works and a strong musical ethos between the band, who would go on in this particular partnership, to produce some outstanding albums - "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" being the first. What a way to start!

Part 1 of the title track begins with a 3 minute intro of tinkling percussion, reminiscent of various wind chimes and eerily squeaking desolate swings that occasionally pop up, really testing the audience's patience and willingness to sit through the whole thing! David's violin then start cutting through the airiness of the piece, almost like a scythe cutting down resistant crops blowing in the wind. Robert's guitar is quite a surprise, with an incredibly pure yet distorted tone bringing something great to the atmosphere (perhaps outdated by the overuse and ease of it now in the 21st century). Despite this, nothing - in the hundreds of thousands of albums ever created sounds at all like this whole cacophony of odd melodies, effects, percussion, and selection of instruments. About 5 minutes through, the musicians really settle down, with Wetton's rolling bass line, Bruford's distinctive drumming tunings, but particularly Robert's incredibly skilful guitar work, playing atonal arpeggios all over the place to a very definite pattern at breakneck speed, identical even in live performances!

The track builds with more percussion-centered improvisations, with an eccentric wah-wah bass and guitar tremolos refined to more melodic and sophisticated tones on their follow up "Starless And Bible Black" to ingeniously fit the new setting. The track then enters a lengthy violin solo, allowing David Cross to shine. Whilst he is a second-to-none violinist, he still doesn't quite sound original or experimental enough to be with the band. Still a superb section of the album, with Muir's tweeting birds and other inspired aberrant musical paraphernalia, constantly bobbing around. All in all, an excellent display of talent and some of the most enterprising songwriting and improvising I've ever come across.

"Book Of Saturday" is much more gentle, but still similarly innovative. The lyrics are very meaningful and set quite a detailed story in the short 3 minutes of the song. Robert's guitars display much virtuosity, including odd harmonics and open stringed riffs, teamed with a volume swelling solo that sinks in beautifully to the bed of the album, plus some of David's best violin playing (plus John!) Appearances of odd time signatures, a brilliant device that makes the song even more progressive. The absence of percussion subconsciously makes you relax and indulge more into the tranquility of Wetton's tremendous melodies and harmonies towards the end. Possibly King Crimson's best ballad, beating "Lady Of The Dancing Water", "Fallen Angel", "Matte Kudasai", and even "Cadence And Cascade".

Like the opening track, "Exiles" contains an extensive intro of isolated moanings emanating rather alluring from whatever is being played, and putting you in the place of the exile. More music in introduced as the character almost gets accustomed to his leaving of a great kingdom. Some almost arabic influences arise from Cross' violin and the ambient humming that outlines the atmosphere between the verses. More marvellous lyrics and struggling, relatable vocals from Wetton, and a more refined guitar arpeggio technique as that heard on "Cirkus". Attractive melodies with the occasional area of intrigue just to be different (but to great effect). An almost opulent weighty guitar solo by Fripp to juxtapose David's soaring violin. Some very symphonic crashing percussion is put to great use by Muir towards the end, as the track retreats back to a more melodic version of how it began. Yet another fantastic track.

"Easy Money" - probably the fan favourite off the album. Essentially a collaboration of jazz, heavy metal, and King Crimson's tendencies to experiment and go off on a musical pilgrimage of a tangent, exploring the depths of the genres that no-one else could reach! Love the scat melodies with the ringing bells and other varied percussion that constantly emerges in the piece. Brilliant chords and arpeggios also played throughout from the guitars, with hypnotic very fresh sounding effects and tones exuding from the respective musicians (a difficult feat to accomplish from something so avant-garde as this). Jazz comes through as the most prominent genre here, with some very modal improvisations on the brink of atonality from Fripp, and classic jazz drumming from Bruford here, but with quirk and obvious personality. The lyrics likewise are very "alternative", which are pretty self-explanatory and just a bit of fun. Ends abruptly with some sly laughter (the likes of which I've only really heard on the Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc.") Upholding the towering standard of music, another excellent track.

"The Talking Drum" retreats back to a percussion-based improvisation. Not being a drummer, I know I won't be able to fully appreciate what these masterminds are doing, but it still sounds great to my guitar-biased ears! A very minimal track with more jazzy solos, entering from a slightly different angle as previously done though. Not an oblique display of musical insanity, but somehow conveys a much more personal feel to the listener. Once again, very unique and absolutely essential the album, ending on some demented monkey screams taking you right into the final track...

"Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part 2" is astonishingly one of the most accessible tracks on the album. Very clear dissonant melodies, with strange time signatures and instruments all complementing each other magnificently. For me, this is the essence of the album in one piece - a well-structured composition with occasional outbursts of improv from the musicians. Absolutely gorgeously bass lines appear, and Muir's percussion is more restrained here (probably for the better, seeing it doesn't take up so much place on the mix). Nothing really gives the piece a backbone, because they are all in the background in some way, so it allows room for the very complex track to somehow breathe, with each instrument taking its solos wherever necessary (including David Cross' best work on the album in my opinion, and likewise with Bill Bruford). Actually very tuneful for a King Crimson song, and ends on a thunderous tremolo of a distorted orchestra. The album is second to none in what it set out to accomplish, and of course a masterpiece!

A: One of King Crimson's many spectacularly unorthodox zeniths in terms of musicianship and improvisation. Exploring whole new territories in music, and a cornerstone of progressive rock.

Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part 1: **** Book Of Saturday: ***** Exiles: ***** Easy Money: ***** The Talking Drum: **** Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part 2: *****

Xonty | 5/5 |


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