King Crimson

Thrakattak

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As the yellow badge on the front of Thrakattak (1996) proclaims, the eight selections on "this recording contain(s) explicit live instrumental improvisation(s)" by the double-trio reformation of King Crimson featuring Adrian Belew (guitar), Bill Bruford (percussion/drums), Robert Fripp (guitar), Trey Gunn (Warr guitar), Tony Levin (bass), and Pat Mastelotto (percussion/drums). Taken from the combo's 1995 fall tour, the songs demonstrate their uncanny abilities as performers who are simultaneously active listeners. They wind through a variety of sonic scenarios, some intense and others nothing short of sublime. The opener "THRAK" was introduced into the repertoire on the work-in-progress VROOOM EP (1994), marking the first new sounds from King Crimson in a decade. In concert, the song would often be used as a vehicle into the free-form outings on which the majority of the disc is focused. One of the exceedingly fascinating aspects of the material is the way that Fripp incorporates his elaborate system of guitar-manipulated digital delay known as Soundscapes. "The Slaughter of the Innocents" demonstrates their unique countenance when placed in the context of the sextet, especially once percussionists Bruford and Mastelotto begin their rhythmic interjections. "This Night Wounds Time" -- a phrase from British artist Tom Phillips' "Humument" -- hearkens back to the rear LP jacket of Starless and Bible Black (1974). What commences as a languid and sinuous confab turns into a ferocious blow with Fripp and Bruford (on marimba) winding toward an undiluted aural assault that became one of the band's calling cards. Sounds such as those contained on Thrakattak are without question an acquired taste and challenging at times to listen to. However for many King Crimson enthusiasts, that is precisely the appeal. Parties seeking a more thorough overview of the mid-'90s aggregate in action are encouraged to locate On Broadway: Live in NYC, 1995 (1999) or Vrooom Vrooom (2001), both of which are double-CD collections capturing the six-man unit in action.

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