Posts Tagged ‘King Crimson’

What’s spinning, June 18 edition

Monday, June 18th, 2007

If you’ve actually been following the last.fm widget up there at the top of the blog, you might know some of this, but in any case here is what has been occupying my ears for the past couple weeks.

  • Anekdoten - A Time of Day — Well, it’s better than Gravity, but that’s not exactly high praise. Jury’s still out on this one for me; I could see it being a grower.
  • Cato Salsa Experience & The Thing with Joe McPhee - Two Bands and a Legend — This was on my previous list of this sort, from back in April, and it’s still in heavy rotation. I’ll be reviewing it soon.
  • Do Make Say Think - You, You’re a History in Rust — This one is also a long-lasting pleasure, and will likely end up being one of my favorites of the year. This is post-rock at its most beautiful, yet sacrificing nothing in depth (unlike, say, some of the material by Explosions in the Sky).
  • Dungen - Tio Bitar — My first impressions so far are just that; nothing has really stood out to me. For some reason I get less and less excited about this band as time passes, and I was hoping this album would change that. Hasn’t happened yet.
  • Grails - Burning Off Impurities — This is a really hard band to pigeonhole; they’re somewhere between post-rock and prog and metal and ambient and world music, or something. Previous albums have not really excited me, but this one has some really great moments.
  • Isis - Live.04 — Isis’ latest limited-edition live CD is a mixed bag of cuts mostly from Celestial and Oceanic. Oddly, I like the earlier stuff the best; the band’s raw power really comes through in the live context.
  • King Crimson - Live in Heidelburg 1974 — Highlight of this one is pretty clearly the funky “Heidelburg II” improv, in which Bruford comes through with some of the most agile playing I’ve heard him pull off in a KC improv, and Wetton just levels everything in his path.
  • Joanna Newsom - Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band EP — I’m not really that thrilled by the re-recorded versions of “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie” and “Cosmia,” but the new song “Colleen” is up there with anything else Newsom has yet recorded. I cannot wait for her next release, and I’m even more excited for her next tour.
  • Nightwish - End of an Era — There are so many things I don’t really like about this band — the silly bombast, the terrible male vocals, the lyrics — but somehow in the end I’m always won over by their sheer energy and the obvious joy they get from playing their music. This DVD is addictive, and although there are several throwaway pieces, it’s great fun.
  • Pelican - City of Echoes — Not sure what I think about this one yet; I think I like it better than The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, but I could be wrong. It definitely seems more dynamic, although the Pitchfork review is dead-on in picking out the drummer as a factor holding the band back from greater heights.
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - In Glorious Times — Well, duh. This has been dominating my speakers for weeks now. My review basically says all I need to say about it: it’s awesome.
  • The Thing - Live at Blå — Basically two half-hour pieces consisting of “covers” of barely recognizable songs strung together by free improv sections. Definitely not the most accessible place to start with this band, and I find myself thinking it definitely has some dead spots that could have used cutting, but it’s an accurate picture of what they do when they play live.
  • Wilco - Sky Blue Sky — Now this is a huge disappointment. Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche are two premier innovators on their respective instruments (and the rest of the band are hardly slouches), but instead of a worthy followup to the skewed indie-pop of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born, we get a middle-of-the-road, mostly boring, totally straightforward album of pop-rock that’s to the band’s earlier output as David Gilmour’s On An Island is to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Some reviewers have been saying “but it’s so well-crafted!” but I disagree with that, too — some of Tweedy’s vocal lines and melodies here are nothing short of cringeworthy.

I still really like Pink Floyd

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Last night, as my bedtime music, I somewhat whimsically decided to play Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Back in the day, when things were simpler and I could actually answer those annoying “what’s your favorite band/album?” questions, my answers would have been… Pink Floyd, and Wish You Were Here. I still rank this album among my favorites — in my personal Gnosis-style rating system it’s still one of very few 15s — but I probably haven’t listened to it in five years.

I was suprised at the extent to which I still know pretty much every single note on this album, and the extent to which it still packs an emotional punch for me. In the past couple years I’ve been considering my two former “favorite bands” (King Crimson being the other) more or less played out for me; I’d listened to them so obsessively that at this point their music has lost all personal impact. I’m glad that this appears not to be the case. I enjoyed immensely my spin of Wish You Were Here last night, and now I’ll probably go back and give my other Floyd albums a go. I won’t be listening to them nonstop like I used to, of course, but it’s nice to know that a few years away from an old favorite can make it sound fresh and new all over again.

What bands have NO weak albums?

Monday, February 6th, 2006

There’s a small thread going on at ProgressiveEars asking for recommendations of Univers Zero’s music. I posted a quick response, basically saying that I like all of their albums (thus making mine an entirely unhelpful contribution to the discussion), though for different reasons. I really don’t think there’s a weak spot in their entire discography — some 10 albums as of the release of Live last month. Some I like less than others, sure (their first two “reunion” albums are a notch below the rest of their body of work IMHO), but it’s all quite good, with each album subtly different from the ones that came before and after.

I can’t really think of any other band about which I feel this way. There are some bands out there that I like all of their albums, of course, but none with the long history and large discography of Univers Zero. There are plenty of bands who have a great discography but who have released a clunker or two, or at least a couple albums that I’m lukewarm about. There are some non-prog bands, like Cowboy Junkies, Mogwai or The Decemberists, whose discographies I like front to back, following along with their subtle stylistic changes as they evolved, but I don’t like them with the same passion that I have for Univers Zero.

I don’t know. Henry Cow comes close, but they have fewer albums and I’m not a huge fan of the Canterbury-centric sound of Legend. I guess King Crimson comes relatively close as well; I adore a lot of their albums, but I’m not a huge fan of their 80s period and they’ve just released so much material (and I have so much of it) that I’m just not as well-acquainted with a lot of their stuff, compared to how well I know all of UZ’s releases. Perhaps Daniel Denis’ infamous perfectionism, and refusal to release live albums until this new one, pays off in the form of a more concise and lovable discography.

I think I’m rambling a bit, but I think the point is this: there are very, very few bands out there who can say that they’ve released a bunch of albums in a recognizably distinct style, all of excellent quality, yet all of which show enough progression and development such that they don’t all sound alike. I mean, some people probably love all of the Ozric Tentacles‘ or Djam Karet’s albums, but to me they’re all too similar to each other. Univers Zero have avoided that rut, doing something a bit different every time (although arguably the reunion version of the band shows less progression between albums than the classic version) such that every album, despite being in the same overall style, is a unique work that stands well on its own merits. And this is without exception — no clunkers in their history at all!

If I think of another band about which I can say this, I’ll follow up, but I don’t think I will. Univers Zero isn’t my favorite band — I think a decent number of bands have reached greater heights — but perhaps no one in my experience, particularly in the rock music field, has been as consistently good as they have.

Ultimate prog & farewell to the D-Plan

Monday, September 8th, 2003

Two of my favorite pastimes - progressive rock and Ultimate Frisbee - finally combined into one: the New York Ultimate promotional video (Quicktime 5+ required) features King Crimson’s “Thela Hun Ginjeet” as its soundtrack. Pretty cool. Unforunately the video itself doesn’t feature all that much exciting footage, Ultimate-wise, but for anyone who’s never seen the sport it might be pretty interesting anyway.

Also: I was lucky enough to see the Dismemberment Plan’s final show, at the 9:30 Club here in DC. The critics and the fans are raving, but frankly I didn’t enjoy it all that much. I’ve seen the Plan live several times - four or five, I think - but this was the first time I’d ever seen them in their hometown of DC. Clearly all the people there were longtime, hardcore fans. There was a lot of back and forth banter between the crowd and the band that was fun, and the band had a ton of energy and clearly was having a great time. Unfortunately, the sound was fucking horrible - loose, muddy bass that completely swamped everything else, most noticeably the guitar and the vocals, which were completely inaudible from the all of the three different places on the floor that I tried standing. I expect that had I been able to hear anything but the drums (I could hear bass, but not the bass playing - it was all too muddy), I might have enjoyed the show a lot. Too bad.

I guess to a certain extent the music was only part of the point of the show, anyway. Which, in this case, is fine.

New King Crimson: meh?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2003

And speaking of King Crimson, yesterday their new album, The Power to Believe, was released in the US. I decided I’m enough of a fanboy to go pick it up on the first day, even enough of a fanboy to pay the somewhat absurd $17.98 my local CD store was charging for it. My first impression was not favorable. Sounded like The ConstruKction of Light, only wimpier. Whatever you thought of the pseudo-nu-metal of Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With, this seemed like a step back. I’m giving it my second listen now, and predictably I’m liking it better. I’m still a bit disappointed, though - I was reading some raving reviews and (probably unrealistically) really hoping for something fresher. Ah well, it’s still King Crimson… and I’m still a fanboy.

I have a mild affinity for King Crimson

Tuesday, March 4th, 2003

Q. Define ‘fanboy’.

A. One who owns 12 discs of live recordings of one incarnation of King Crimson. Exhibit A: Brandon Wu -

Can I actually tell all these different live performances apart? Uh, some of them. Is this way too much overkill? Uh, probably, but I don’t care. Every recording is worth something to me, and I enjoy every one of them. I’m a fanboy, after all. It was great for me that DGM decided to begin selling Collector’s Club CDs to the general public - I never took the $96 plunge originally, because I was afraid there’d be a lot of material that I wouldn’t be interested in, from the 80’s band for instance (hell, I already have 24 live discs of non-mid-70s Crimson!). I was right, but damn did I miss out on some great releases. The Mainz one in particular is flat-out stunning at times, and the shows with Muir are of course absolutely great to have.

Interesting upcoming shows I’m indifferent to

Sunday, November 25th, 2001

Later this week, Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs are playing right here in good ol’ New Haven, CT… but I don’t really have any desire to see them. I have Night of the Living Dregs and the King Biscuit live album, and both are nice, but obviously not good enough to make me really interested. Besides, I saw the Dregs open for Dream Theater a couple years ago at this very same venue, so I know what I’m missing.

Similarly, King Crimson is playing here and in New York, but oddly enough, I also don’t have much inclination to go see them. Back when things were simpler and I could name a “favorite band”, King Crimson was definitely it - if I’d had the opportunity to see them live three or four years ago, I would have ponied up a hundred dollars to do it. Now I’m balking at the $35-$65 ticket price. The fact that the recent Crimson releases haven’t done much for me are likely a big cause of this. Oh well.

Thievery Corporation, Don Cab, and the Broof

Thursday, February 15th, 2001

Re the genrefication of Thievery Corporation: AMG says acid jazz. Josh says downtempo. Meanwhile, on rmp, there’s been mention of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). Here’s another page about IDM. Pretty interesting stuff.

I picked up Don Caballero’s American Don from the station today after returning The Mirror Conspiracy. I’m quite indifferent to it, but given my general indifference to 80s King Crimson, and the vague comparisons between these two that seem to go on, this probably isn’t too surprising. I mean, I can see that it’s good stuff for certain people, but it’s not stuff that I’m particularly interested in.

I don’t know where Noah Lesgold found this quote that he put in his sig, but it’s great:

I love seeing the whites of an audience’s eyes instead of being stuck in the back and seeing John Wetton’s ass. Life for me is a series of asses that I played behind. Adrian Belew has got a very nice ass, slim. John Wetton’s is a little bigger. Jon Anderson’s is very small. Nice legs, lousy ass. It’s a series of asses.
— Bill Bruford

Eric Tamm on the greatness of “Starless”

Sunday, December 17th, 2000

I remember reminiscing in this log a while back about driving to school with King Crimson’s “Starless” blasting out the windows, and about the emotions I associate with this memory. Eric Tamm writes:

…in my opinion ["Starless"] is simply the best composition King Crimson ever committed to record. It is also the only King Crimson piece that has ever made me weep - those tears that tend to issue out of a direct confrontation with what we feebly call “artistic greatness” but is really a portentous and rarely glimpsed secret locked away at the heart of human experience.

Hordes of fictional prog bands

Monday, October 23rd, 2000

For some reason I’d been overlooking the avant-progressive list recently, but in the past couple days there have been some pretty interesting thread. Someone asked about Pere Ubu, an “avant-garage” band whose 25th anniversary concert I happened to catch, by completely random chance, at the Knitting Factory. I was only able to stay for about an hour of the show, but I found it to be fairly interesting, though their type of noise-manipulation (especially the vocal side) isn’t really to my tastes.

The best piece of news coming from this list, though, is the fact that Soleil Zeuhl, who brought us the Dün Eros reissue that I still haven’t gotten around to getting, are planning to reissue Eskaton’s two non-4 Visions albums, Fiction and Ardeur, in mid-2001. Sweet!

My copies of the gatefold 24-remasters of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red just came in today. I’m listening to Larks’ now at a ridiculously high volume, and the bass is shaking windows. Oh man, this stuff kicks so much ass. I’m not really putting much effort into comparing the new with the old, but on Larks’ at least the quieter moments seem much clearer - Muir’s percussion stands out a lot more to me than it ever did before. And Wetton’s bass is huger than ever, but that might be because I’ve never listened to this album at quite this enormous volume before.

Someone on rec.music.progressive just pointed out this rather amusing War Against Silence review of Echolyn’s As the World. A favorite quote: “…most of what seems to be the action in progressive rock isn’t even happening in English (though I’m still not totally convinced that some net denizens aren’t inventing hordes of fictional prog bands from Italy and Peru, just to confuse me)”.