Thursday, July 11, 2002


King Crimson, THRaKaTTaK (Discipline Global Mobile DGM96042), 1996

Hard to believe that this is eight years old. Seems like only yesterday. THRaKaTTaK (let's be pedantic and get the upper and lower case rendition correct) is a full-frontal aural assault on the heinous mediocrities of corporate rock. Robert Fripp and his double-trio thread together an hour of immensely satisfying avant improvisation. This material was recorded at various live King Crimson concerts in 1995. It begins and ends with an account of 'Thrak' from the album of the same name - and in a different guise from the preceding EP, 'Vroom' (1994). In between the received notes we get some idea of just how far this Crimson line-up pushed their experimental mandate.

The natural aggression of rock, the instinctive bravery of free jazz and the complex textural interest of contemporary composed musics are all called to mind as Fripp (guitar and electronics), Adrian Belew (guitar and FX), Tony Levin (Chapman stick), Trey Gunn (Warr guitar), Pat Mastelotto (drums) and Bill Bruford (percussion) set to work. The outcome is something far more terrifying and edgy than anything the band has produced in the studio so far - a milestone in improvised rock, and for once something that actually merits the much misused monicker 'progressive'.

Many sympathetic to the Crimson cause have argued that the double trio format never really gelled. Mastelotto's muscular drums and Bruford's skittering, angularly metred percussive forays found differentiated but complementary roles; Levin's distinctive stick sound continued to cut through without competition; but the guitar-based musicians sometimes seemed to encroach on each others' accents and harmonic territory a little too much. On THRaKaTTaK, however, they unleashed a sonic force that is undoubtedly greater than the sum of their not inconsiderable parts. A classic in its own right, and one to file in between Ornette Coleman and Glenn Branca. Dark, daring and delightfully demanding.

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