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What the Fripp? King Crimson to release 15 disc box set of ‘Larks Tongues in Aspic.’
King Crimson fans, it’s time to update your Christmas wish lists: On October 15, King Crimson is reissuing its fifth album, Larks Tongues in Aspic, in three different editions.
The album’s re-release—part of King Crimson’s ongoing 40th Anniversary Editions campaign—includes a CD/DVD-A edition as well as a three disc edition. In a feast fit for a King Crimson fanatic, the deluxe edition will consist of 15 discs. Though cost details haven’t been released yet, it’s safe to say the price sticker may give your credit card heart palpitations. (As a point of comparison, Pink Floyd’s Immersion box set reissue of The Wall consisted of a mere seven discs.)
King Crimson fans may wish to parse out the bounty of bonus material to make it last a long while because the band is unlikely to release new material. Robert Fripp, the band’s chief architect, leader, guitarist and only permanent member, seems to have abdicated King Crimson’s throne for good (more on that later).
The Larks Tongues in Aspic reissues include a standard CD/DVD-A edition as well as a three disc edition. Each version includes the original album mix, a new stereo mix, all new audio bonus content, a 5.1 Surround mix created by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Storm Corrosion, No-Man) and a full album of Wilson’s alternative mixes. The two-disc edition includes a half hour of previously unseen video of the band performing in the studio. Of particular interest to King Crimson’s most loyal subjects is the crown jewel of the three disc set: The first video release of the Larks Tongues in Aspic lineup performing at the Bremen Beat Club in 1972. (Prior to now, the only footage from the concert to surface is a fuzzy and oddly psychedelic video of “Larks Tongues in Aspic, pt. 1” on YouTube.)
Warning: You wish to take a deep breath before reading the official description of the box set edition, which consists of 13CDs, 1DVD-A, 1Blu-Ray in a 12 inch box with booklet and memorabilia.
Limited edition Boxed Set: 13CDs, 1DVD-A, 1Blu-Ray in 12” box with booklet & memorabilia. DVD-A content as above, Blu-Ray content as per DVD-A with further hi-res stereo material – all presented in DTS Master audio, 4CDs of studio content including CD of session reels featuring the first recorded takes of all pieces on the album, 1CD live in the studio, 8CDs of live audio restored bootlegs & soundboard recordings + 36 page booklet with an extensive new interview with Robert Fripp, notes by King Crimson biographer Sid Smith, album sleeve print, concert ticket replica (with code for further concert download) & band photo postcards – limited to initial orders, one pressing only to a worldwide maximum limit of 7,000 units.
Originally released in 1973, Larks Tongues in Aspic ushered in a new lineup and a new musical era for King Crimson. Fripp recruited drummer Bill Bruford, formerly of Yes, as well as percussionist Jamie Muir to create a heavier and more percussive record. John Wetton, previously a member of Family, was drafted to sing vocals and play bass. The quartet was rounded out by multi-instrumentalist David Cross, whose violin playing is a signature element of this lineup’s sound.
Whereas the three previous albums—In the Wake of Poseidon, Lizard, and Islands—pursued a cutting-edge amalgamation of jazz and rock, Larks Tongues in Aspic is more improvisational than any of the band’s earlier freeform offerings. The album is shot through with strange noises and anarchic textures thanks to Muir’s fondness of “found object” percussion, which includes parts of bicycles and toys. Indeed, the first two minutes of album opener “Larks Tongues in Aspic, pt. 1” consists of music played on an African thumb piano, or Mbira, before Fripp enters the proceedings with a guitar riff as heavy as anything by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. The epic track’s crests and troughs include exquisite hushed passages, during which Cross’s violin conjures up oriental sounds.
The album’s midpoint piece, “Exiles,” vacillates between a sweet, acoustic, pastoral sound and what sounds like a witch’s cauldron brew of dark and ominous noises. Wetton’s keening voice comes to the fore on “Easy Money,” a playful and jazzy piece in which Muir and Bruford’s interplay is up high in the mix alongside Fripp’s corkscrew guitar lines. Near the end of the record, the hornet’s nest buzz of “The Talking Drum” segues into the album finale, “Larks Tongues in Aspic, pt. 2.” Fripp’s abrasive yet melodic guitar riffing offers a sweet foretaste of the molten dynamics he would further develop on Red. In sum, Larks Tongues in Aspic is one of King Crimson’s seminal creations.
Nearly forty years after that album’s release, King Crimson appears to be on permanent hiatus. Its last studio album was 2003’s The Power to Believe and the unit hasn’t toured since 2007. In an online diary entry on Dec. 5, 2010, Fripp offered a detailed explanation for why he has decided to deactivate King Crimson. He wrote, “After 41 years of professional grouping, with my own plans a hostage to fate, arbitrary happenstance & calendars – in October 2008 the switch went from on to off, and I couldn’t switch it back.”
Of course, it’s possible that Crimson could return at the Fripp of a switch. But it’s more likely that Fripp and the band’s numerous alumni will continue to work on Crimson-related ProjeKts. In 1997, Fripp decided that King Crimson should fracture into various FraKtals, or side ProjeKts, consisting of various iterations of its lineup which, at the time, consisted of two guitarists, two bass/Chapman Stick players and two drummers. Fripp’s idea was that the ProjeKts would conduct “research and development” for King Crimson before the band reconvened to create new material.
At this point, the ProjeKts may outlast the band itself. In 2011, Fripp released the ProjeKt album A Scarcity of Miracles with King Crimson saxophonist Mel Collins (who last played on 1974’s Red album) and Jakko Jakszyk, a King Crimson fan who’d played in 21st Century Schizoid Band (a non-ProjeKt offshoot of King Crimson that consists of former musicians of the band during the late 1960s and early 1970s). The Fripp, Collins, Jakszyk album also featured contributions by two other former Crimson members: drummer Gavin Harrison (also a member of Porcupine Tree) and bassist Tony Levin. (Confused yet? Keeping up with King Crimson’s many sub-iterations is more difficult than tracing the Merovingian bloodline through the ages.)
Meanwhile, Tony Levin, drummer Pat Mastelotto and guitarist Adrian Belew have formed their own Crimson ProjeKt, touring the US in support of Dream Theater this summer and performing Crimson material. On August 20-24, the trio is staging a Three of a Perfect Pair music camp at the Full Moon Resort in upstate New York.
In other King Crimson-related activity, Robert Fripp and saxophonist and flautist Theo Travis are due to release an album titled Follow on September 24. Travis, currently a member of Steven Wilson band, has worked with Fripp on numerous occasions, including two previous Fripp/Travis records. The duo’s new album is produced by Wilson and is described as “An entrancing collection of textures and ideas. The album closes with a guitar/saxophone call and response stomp which features some of the most ferocious Robert Fripp soloing of the last decade.”
The reissue of Larks Tongues in Aspic follows the recent 2 disc DVD-A album Live in Argentina, which was recorded on King Crimson’s 1994 tour.
By the way, how’s your credit card’s heart condition?
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