Altered States


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If King Crimson had continued to become an improvising power trio, operating at a level of intensity several degrees above "Starless and Bible Black," it's possible they might have grown to achieve the power of Altered States. Led by Ground Zero guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi, this group, liberally augmented by a number of guest musicians on this recording, romps and lurches through rhythmically diverse, brutally strong instrumentals that recall King Crimson at their best, with a more than a dash of bands like Naked City and a dollop or two of funk thrown in for good measure. The level of communication is such that it's difficult to believe that most of the music is improvised; certainly some basic riffs were laid down. But it's just that freedom of interplay that breathes life into what could otherwise be a sterile exercise in math rock. The first ten tracks are all around five minutes in length and inhabit somewhat similar, propulsive territory, with the odd effect (like Koichi Makigami's lunatic vocals on "Issai-Kai-Ku") breaking the seriousness on occasion. The final track, the 30-minute-long "Suite Circle," is more expansiveness, though not much intensity is lost. As the title suggests, it's in a suite-like format, more ethereal sections abutting torrentially frenzied ones full of additional percussion, alongside psychedelia and abstract mutterings, with the basic trio expanded to 12 musicians. If it meanders a bit, it also illustrates the range of these musicians and the amount of ground they were able to cover. It's an altogether fine effort, highly recommendable not only to fans of the Japanese rock/improv axis, but also to adventurous rock fans looking for something with a bit more bite.

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