(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Just when it seemed the ghost of King Crimson was laid to rest- it was resurrected, sort of.....
In early 1981 Robert Fripp's flirtations with the New York minimalist music scene came to fruition in the form of a new band called Discipline. Joining him were former Crimson drummer Bill Bruford, and two Americans, Tony Levin on bass and a new instrument called the Chapman Stick, and Adrian Belew on guitar. While this band was intended to be an altogether new project, in the end it was saddled with the King Crimson name (see our online Robert Fripp book for the details on how this came to be).
Musically this band had a whole new approach to music that was right in line with early 80's minimalist music. Compared to older Crimson music, the sound of Discipline was a radical departure. It's sleek and streamlined. Still, many Crimson hallmarks are still in the mix. Robert Fripp is his usual self, though by the early 80's he had a few new techniques and musical approaches in his bag. Most notably an idea for interlocking two guitar parts into a precise almost mechanized synchronization. Often done in harmony, this was a very fresh sound for 'rock' guitar at the time and continues be a part of the sound of today’s incarnation of Crimson as well (check out the title track from ConstruKction of Light for a recent interlocking piece). This is the sound most closely associated with this version of the band. Also a newfound use of guitar synthesis and electronic drums and percussion helped define the sound of 80's Crimson.
"Elephant Talk" opens the album. "ET" has become a signature tune for this era of Crimson. A guitar showcase for 'stunt guitarist' Belew. Listen as he coaxes out a variety of un-guitar sounds, including his famed trumpeting elephant . Levin's stick intro was a first for the time as well and one of his funkiest moments. Fripp turns in a wild melodic solo and then Belew unleashes a wilder solo of his own. A classic! Do you hear a little David Byrne influence here in the vocals??
"Frame by Frame" follows and is another signature tune for this lineup, this songs influence was far reaching. On the following two albums, Beat and Three Of A Perfect Pair, there are a few numbers that could easily be called Frame #2. But to me there is nothing like the original for energy and imagination. This was the first Crimson song I ever heard and I guess I will always be biased towards it. Fripp’s wild arpeggiating guitar bubbles under a wave of Belew's chordal stabs. Bruford and Levin provide the perfect platform for the guitars to fly.
"Matte Kudasai" (Wait Please) is a gentle ballad. While Crimson are known for their bombast, there have always been a few tender, melodic numbers on each album as well and Discipline is no exception. Check out Belew's seagull sounds on this track.
The 'song' "Indiscipline" is as uncompromising as the name implies. One of Belew's best spoken-word pieces. Here he talks about an object that is never really defined in the song. He "wishes you were here to see it!". I have heard this is about a painting that Belew's wife gave him. Musically there is a huge contrast going on, alternating between the quiet spoken word sections and some unrelenting dissonant walls of sound. The juxtaposition is delicious! The heavy bits remind me of old Crimsons more dissonant moments. Good stuff this one! Both Fripp and Belew turn in some insane guitar work.
"Thela Hun Ginjeet" - Fast, frantic and the perfect music to accompany Belew's spoken word narration about an unpleasant encounter with some unsavory characters in the streets of New York. A true story put to music.
"The Shetering Sky" is a very special instrumental and in my opinion, this version of Crimsons finest moment. Bruford plays a 'slit' drum on this, which creates a sparse foundation for the band to build on. Levin lays down some growling stick work . Belew enters with a flanged motif on guitar. Atop all this Fripp solos freely with some of his finest guitar synth work. While a lot of this album is really rigid and tense, The Sheltering Sky is the opposite. There is a freeness to it that is very refreshing after listening to the rest of the CD. My favorite song by this lineup, easily. Reminds me of when Fripp would cut loose back in the 70's, with a modern twist to the sound.
Closing is the title track, an interlocking guitar masterpiece. Again, here is another song that is imitated a lot on future Crimson LPs. This is the best of the bunch though! A must!
Out of the three LPs by this lineup, Discipline is by far the strongest. It's solid from beginning to end. Essential 80's Crim. A minimalist prog masterpiece!
(All Album Reviews by Vinylroolz)
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 13, 1981 IN THE "TGIF" SECTION OF THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE-TELEGRAPH NEWSPAPER.
"The musical movement of which King Crimson was a founding force went tragically off course, and Crimson was the only group with the intelligence to withdraw when it's usefulness was over. In a world very different from seven years ago, there is useful work to do which requires a powerful instrument. And so King Crimson has returned to active service."
So says Crimson's founder/guitarist, Robert Fripp, who has gone back on his denials of a few short years ago that the band would ever again see the light of day.
Disbanded in 1974, Crimson is not so much reformed as reborn. As Fripp reminds us, King Crimson is not merely a rock group but is "a way of doing things".
Fripp and percussionist Bill Bruford, the only remnants from the band's past days, are joined now by guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew and bassist Tony Levin.
Discipline represents a division between Fripp's "Drive To '81" and his "Incline To '84" and is an accurate Frippography, if you will, of everything the musician's been involved in from Crimson on: album production and sessions, solo albums, and his last project The League of Gentlemen.
"Elephant Talk" and "Theela Hun Ginjeet" extrapolate on parts of Fripp's Exposure LP and are involved with dance-oriented, psychotic-tinged urban funk-rock, ala Talking Heads. They're easily the two best cuts, as fiery in social commentary as musicianship. Play them often.
"Frame By Frame" reflects on the slower parts of Crimson's last studio LP Red with Belew capturing then-vocalist John Wetton's tonal qualities.
"Indiscipline" comes direct from their Starless and Bible Black period and has Bruford drumming more excitedly than I've heard in ages. Stop-and-go music, oddly timed searing reprises, manic spoken commentary; uneasy, dangerous music that shows King Crimson is still taking chances.
The title track is a busy instrumental in whose layers of guitars one could get lost. Impeccably constructed and realized, the guitars go back and forth, echo counterpoint and chatter over quick, popping bass work and a steady beat with off-beat accents and rolls. This one comes closest to Fripp's latest escapades and proves him to be the most technically proficient electric guitarist anywhere. It's another uneasy tune that takes you right off the edge at the end. Truly for rock's open-minded and strong-of-heart.
Progressive rock may have died but King Crimson is most certainly alive. Discipline is unique, intriguing and an insight into one of rock's more interesting personalities, Robert Fripp. It has a mixture of styles, a smorgasbord of thoroughly modern music.
Welcome back King Crimson, you've been sorely missed. Long live the King!