Robert Fripp has described King Crimson as “a way of doing things”. When the time is ripe Crimson “reappears”. That time has come again and Fripp has assembled musicians for the next phase in the legendary band’s existence. In the meantime he has given his blessing for The Crimson ProjeKCt to play music from that illustrious back catalogue.
Configured as a double trio, the sextet concentrate on tracks from the 90s and 80s with a few forays into the red mists of the distant past. “Live in Tokyo” begins in uncompromising fashion (this is the Crim way) with the dual-drum attack of B’Boom leading into the dissonant nuevo-metal of THRAK, not so much an instrumental as a gut-pummelling riff book-ending a tentative and unsettling improvisation. The wealth of technology these players have mastered over their many years of service to experimental music provide them a broad palette from which to conjure shapes from the ethereal to the downright obscene. Beautiful soundscapes are dispelled with abandon by all manner of shrieks, squeals and filthy percussive ejaculations.
From this opening oppressive atmosphere the melodic phasing of ‘Frame By Frame’ sounds all the more sweet. Although the King Crimson modus operandi is never to play the same piece the same way twice, the individual styles of each of the ProjeKCt musicians lends the rendition of even familiar songs a fresh complexion. ‘Dinosaur’ does away with its ‘guitar as orchestra’ gentility and instead lumbers like a stricken and pissed-off tyrannosaurus rex. Similarly, the ground-breaking ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part Two)’ lacks Fripp’s high-end and crunchy guitar attack on its monstrous riff, making it a bass-driven behemoth in this format.
It’s a dubious pleasure to hear the oft-overlooked metal machine music of ‘Industry’ – dubious only in that it is such a disturbing composition that pleasure is not foremost in the mind. This version is exploratory and simply superb.
Elsewhere are the funky hits of the ‘guitar gamelan’ era of the Discipline band. ‘Elephant Talk’, ‘Sleepless’ and ‘Indiscipline’ sounding as futuristic as they ever did and making fine use of the bass talents of Tony Levin and Julie Slick. Coupled with twin-drummers the sheer force of the ProjeKCt is quite something but they are always mercurial, able to inject ‘Red’ with agility as well as raw primal power.
While Fripp is steering the Crimson boat into uncharted waters it’s comforting to know that the visionary music they left along the way can still be heard with the musicians who were there to bring it into the world. The real bonus is that younger, non-Crim acolytes like Slick, touch-guitarist Markus Reuter and percussive powerhouse Tobias Ralph have been pulled into its orbit and will hopefully keep bringing this strange and unparalleled music to audiences in the years to come.