King Crimson
The ConstruKction Of Light
[Discipline Global Mobile/Virgin]

The 2000 incarnation of the band has the "double trio" of the last album trimmed to four, with drum god Bill Bruford departing to focus on the acoustic jazz sounds of his band Earthworks and bassist Tony Levin working on some of his many, many projects.

The humor of frontman Adrian Belew is evidenced in opener "ProzaKc Blues", another curveball in a career full of them. It's a lumbering, heavy blues with sarcastic lyrics and Belew having disguised his voice electronically to sound like a fat, worn out black bluesman. This isn't for everyone, but it's easily skipped.

The title track: now this is more like it. The intensely technical Belew/Fripp guitar tradeoffs first heard on 1981's 'Discipline' create a vivid futuristic cityscape sculpted by Pat Mastelotto's respectful electronic drumming and Trey Gunn's darting bass lines on Warr Guitar. The instrumental body of the song is composed with the fluency for which the band are known by now. During the "attachment", vocals are carefully folded into the webs of guitar. Belew's lyrics are typically ambitious and experimental. I don't like them as much as many of his - they aim high but seem to pull back somehow...

The album seems to alternate between Fripp songs and Belew songs. "Into the Frying Pan" is another Belew number - an immediately catchy, rocking song with incisive lyrics and weird, wailing guitars. A Fripp soundscape eases the transition to "FraKctured".

It takes a unique sort of person to compose and perform something like this. Fripp has taken the infamous "cross picking" guitar ideas from "Fracture" on the 'Starless and Bible Black' album and expanded them to their logical extreme. Alternately pensive and racing, his playing takes everyone to school. The other instruments pitch in here and there, but this is pure worship of the guitar. I think it's both haunting and thrilling; many will find it needless showcasing. It's a good litmus test for those investigating later King Crimson.

"The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum" releases the tension again with brilliant, absurdist, yet logical lyrics and more active drumming creating a romping, crashing song highlighted by memorable guitar solos from both players.

The "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part IV" suite successfully reprises the "Larks" themes yet again, using the new shapes and heavier sounds of this album. Calling this complex would be a woeful understatement. In the coda, Gunn becomes more active and shimmering soundscapes take over as Belew leads the album to an emotional climax. I'm still not sure if I like this ending but it is powerful.

A song called "Heaven and Earth" is included at the end of the CD to introduce listeners to ProjeKct X, an alternate identity for this lineup. It is amazing and might be more to the tastes of many people. Imagine Autechre with instrumental chops. Ethereal soundscapes and relatively subdued but still interesting guitar work give this a more subconscious, ambient quality than the album proper.

I like this disc, as I do all KC albums, but it's not one of their best. As documented on the 'Heavy ConstruKction' set, these songs are allowed to breathe more in the live setting. Mastelotto in particular really came into his own in the touring for this album.

King Crimson continue their relentless pursuit of experimentation. It would be fair to argue that they've become almost methodical in this effort. There isn't the artful, narrative grandeur of earlier masterpieces. The mystical, fantastic imagery of the first band has been replaced by a steely futuristic sheen. I'm still on board, however, to witness some of the best musicians in the world continually pushing themselves to expanding frontiers...

2001 j.s.