Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
King Crimson - Larks' Tongues In Aspic CD (album) cover

LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC

King Crimson

 

Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 2787 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
5 stars There are many existential quandaries that the universe teases us with on a daily basis so it can be quite unnerving when your favorite musical artists create some more for you! I speak of KING CRIMSON's lauded fifth album LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC. If you were like me upon first exposure to this eccentric and innovative album then you were wondering what in the world is ASPIC? Well, culinary types may know the answer but in reality the word has two actual meanings. Firstly it is a clear jelly typically made of stock and gelatin and used as a glaze or garnish or to make a mold of meat, fish, or vegetables and secondly we have to put on our botanist's cap to realize that is either of two species of lavender, Lavandula spica or L. latifolia, that yield an oil used in perfumery. So which of these does this bizarre title refer to? I am eternally striving to figure this out but i digress before i even start.

KING CRIMSON is one of the most revered bands in all of the progressive rock playbook and one of the reasons why this band could do no wrong for many during the first leg of this band's career is that Robert Fripp and whomever he was collaborating with would consistently crank out one album after another with little or nothing in common. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the lineup changed often and as a result pretty much every album in the beginning featured a completely different musical cast and Fripp as the de facto band leader wisely molded any particular album's thematic underpinnings to the strengths of whichever cast members were in the KING CRIMSON show at any given moment. While members came and went since the debut "In The Court Of The Crimson King," the band completely melted down after 1971's "Islands" leaving only Fripp to carry on the name and create a new band from scratch.

Fripp was a magnet for talent and had no problem recruiting a new batch of veritable prog stalwarts eager to play with the already legendary band that single handedly launched the big bang of prog in 1969 with the lauded debut. The lineup that appeared on LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC would result in being a wise choice as it would prove to be a fairly stable lineup until the band's first dissolution after "Red." Bassist / vocalist John Wetton joined the team after having previously played with Mogul Thrash, Gordon Haskell and Family. Violinist David Cross made his debut here and fresh out of Yes, drummer Bill Buford found a new home in one of prog's early powerhouses adding his extraordinary drumming talents and taking KC into new music territories. Also joining ranks was percussionist Jamie Muir of The Music Improvisation Company projects (with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Hugh Davies) who only played on this one album. While the only one of the team who didn't continue on with KC, it was his interest becoming a Bhuddist monk that led him to leave the music world for a monastic lifestyle.

For once Fripp took a little more time to craft the next phase of the KC's career. After stuffing four extremely demanding albums into a three year timespan, Fripp was more than ready to take a deep breath and plan the next move carefully. The new incarnation of the band crafted yet another masterful album that got back to the band's progressive rock origin's after "Islands" ethereal space music. LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC may have been more rockin' but still as eclectic as ever with lots of inspiration of both Easter and Western European classical traditions, jazz and free improvisation. LARKS' TONGUE is also unique in that it has two full time percussionists with Bill Bruford handling drums, timbales, cowbells and wood blocks and Muir adding different styles of ethnic percussion and a wealth of assorted items not normally associated with music. The result was an interesting mix of more accessible elements mixed with avant-garde strangeness much like the debut album.

The original release of LARKS' TONGUE IN ASPIC consisted of only six tracks with the opener and closer creating a two part suite of sorts that was interrupted by the creamy filling in between. The two title tracks would ultimately continue on to other albums. "Part III" would emerge on "Three of a Perfect Pair" and "Part IV" on "The Construction of Light." "Part I," the longest track on the album is the most intense as well as it starts with a series of metallic clangs and what sounds like those wind chimes before the track shifts into a series of varied passages that showcase Robert Fripp's angular guitar antics along with David Cross's virtuosic violin playing. While the many shades of percussion are many, the driving force of both parts is clearly the heavy metal guitar riffing that provides a groove to latch onto before Fripp dives headfirst into the world of avant-prog weirdness. Another thing i have noticed about the LARKS' suites is how the main percussive drive seems to have inspired the modern day drumming style of sludge metal with its sparse percussive bombast that punctuates certain rhythmic timings.

The mid-section is just as varied as the title track suites themselves. Of the four tracks, John Wetton provides vocals on "Book of Saturday," "Exiles" and "Easy Money." The first track which is perhaps the most accessible track with an easy to follow vocal melody backed up by jazzy psychedelic meandering but obviously crafted into some sort of avant-groove. "Exiles" while starting out in the clouds and venturing through murky atmospheric turbulence ultimately lands and creates another vocal led number that alternates with the orchestrated space effects. In some ways, this track is the only track that resembles what appeared on the preceding "Islands." The track "Easy Money" bursts out some of the best guitar tones in the entire KC canon with grungy hisses emerging in fully distorted power chords while Wetton does some sort of vocal dance around the pounding bass and heavy percussive drive. The track which is about the antics of a snake oil salesman finds a way to incorporate a funky rock beat within a greater jazzified complexity with somewhat lighthearted lyrics that keep the album from drowning in darkness. In all honesty, the vocal tracks have always proved less compelling but add the human touches to keep this album from drifting out into space.

My favorite track has to be the excellently packaged "The Talking Drum" which masterfully weaves together tribal percussion with Eastern violins and a mean dirty avant-counterpoint of the guitar that dances around the dominant groove which hypnotically ratchets up the tension with a frenzy of sounds growing ever louder until the track merges with the second LARKS' TONGUE suite that takes the album out with a bombastic metal guitar, screeching violin and incessantly caffeinated percussion that climaxes in a purely cacophonous din. Wow. What did i just hear? This album is not the easiest listen for sure. In fact it's taken a long time for me to appreciate it. While some tracks stood out at first, others took their sweet time gestating in my soul but after a ridiculous number of listens, the complexities of KC started to settle and make themselves at home in the musical rolodex in my mind. This is a very weird and charming album to say the least. Inspirational for jazz, metal, prog and the avant-garde noise rock bands to come. Fripp had already shown his true genius at this stage but on LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC he clearly showed that there were no limits in its sheer magnanimous nature. Jelly or lavender? I still don't know. Knowing Fripp and his KC project, it will remain an eternal mystery just like how this album came to be. Maybe the LARKS know.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this KING CRIMSON review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives