19. starless

Starless is just a lament basically, though for what I’m not sure. Maybe a lost love. Or perhaps every apocalyptic thing, because by the time it’s done, it’s pretty much fractured the universe, having done that thing that I’m pretty sure only so-called progressive rock can do (or certainly King Crimson, who it’s pretty easy to argue, invented the genre). Which is to say, Starless doesn’t waste a second of its twelve and half minutes, but neither is it ever in a rush, the first four minutes or so serving as set up (the aforementioned lament), the final eight evoking first the darkest night there’s ever been, and then … well, words fail. But the music doesn’t. The music carves a hole straight through all that darkness, ultimately unleashing vast Niagras of tumultuous and redemptive light. It’s unearthly, it’s uncanny, it’s terrifying, it’s finally so f***ing beautiful you want the whole of creation to just … well, I said it already, words fail when you go that far beyond the perimeter …

The weird part is that the guy singing is John Wetton who would go on to front Asia (the band), which, I’m sorry, is the kind of transgression that can only lead to eternal hellfire. Except based on Starless, maybe he’d already been there. To hell, that is. Which gets us to my old friend Geoffrey (aka the philosopher), and his three essentials of any epic. 1. There must be a hero. 2. There must be a list. 3. There must be a descent into hell. I’m still trying to figure out the list part, unless that’s what I’m doing here. But I’m no hero and I’ve only ever been half-way to hell. Anyway, I guess we’re supposed to be left with a mystery, certainly in the case of King Crimson as main man Robert Fripp had dissolved the band before Starless (and Red, the album that contains it) had even been released. Because as he later put it, ‘The old world, characterized by large, unwieldy and vampiric organizations, was dead, and with it King Crimson.’ Though as deaths go, it would be akin to what happened with Gandalf after he fell into that pit with the Balrog, because King Crimson would return in time, different, but still infused with a magic both terrifying and beautiful.” (Philip Random)

40. close to the edge

“So here we are, decades after the fact and it’s still difficult to discuss the music of the band known as Yes without somehow disparaging it as overwrought, pretentious, guilty of trying too hard. To which I say, f*** that (unless you’re talking about their later stuff – the 1980s and beyond, some of which I’m pretty sure is on perpetual repeat in hell’s jukebox). Because the good stuff, the grand stuff, the vast and virtuous and ambitious stuff of their early-mid 1970s phase, we need that stuff, particularly Close To The Edge (the song and the album, but particularly the side long song). Because it’s true, I think, the edge isn’t a place, the edge doesn’t exist. You’ve either gone too far and you’re falling the long fall into oblivion, or you’ve found that sweet spot just short of it where everything opens up. All those BIG unifying passions and ideas that have been floating in and around you since before puberty even – the idea of indivisibility. Jehovah and Allah and Jesus and Muhammad and Krishna and every known and unknown god or whatever, all one big happy. Bigger than any cathedral, that’s for sure. Because every church, every creed, every ideology gets it wrong the instant it claims to have gotten it all right. Because even if you have vast chunks of the truth, you can’t have it all. It’s the nature of it, beyond mortal comprehension. So the very claim of TRUTH divides us, sets loose corrosive elements, brings the f***ing roof down.

Which is what’s going on in the middle of Close To The Edge, I think, the part where the church organ kicks in. That’s the capital T Truth failing. That’s the cathedrals all collapsing, and the mosques, the temples, the synagogues. That’s the outside crashing in, the inside gushing out. Now that you’re saved, now that you’re whole. Seasons will pass you by. You get up. You get down.  It’s all so clear once you stop trying to make sense of it. Just smoke a doob, put on the headphones, stretch out and let it all be … for eighteen and a half minutes anyway. Maybe the best damned band on the planet. Ever. Or certainly close to it. Hell even Led Zeppelin had to be looking over their shoulders by 1972. Because Yes simply had more going on. Hell, they had Rick Wakeman and his mountainous stacks of keyboards, conjuring choirs and orchestras and all manner of big and mysterious colours and textures and everything really, or damned close to it anyway. As close as anyone got at the time, and maybe ever since. Because has there ever been another time like it? We were definitely close to something.” (Philip Random)

119. red

“My relationship with King Crimson started fairly early on with the eponymous title track of the first album, which got a fair bit of radio play back in the day. But beyond that, I don’t know if I heard anything until a friend made a point of playing Red for me when I was maybe fifteen. Just the song, not the whole album. It actually frightened me, the intensity of it. No respite anywhere in its six plus minutes, even the quiet parts were wound tight, setting up another roar of visceral instrumental fierceness in the shade of red, that sort of mist you see when your rage gets the worst of you and all you can do really is howl. Though maybe here, it’s the best, because man, what a f***ing band! In retrospect, it’s no great surprise that Robert Fripp shut the operation down almost immediately afterward. There was really nowhere else for King Crimson to go – not for six or seven years anyway. And meanwhile, I had plenty of time to catch up†, get educated††.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

231. elephant talk

It’s 1981 and, after a seven year hiatus, Robert Fripp has decided to reboot the monster known as King Crimson. The new album is called Discipline and it’s clear from the opening seconds of the first track Elephant Talk that it’s all for the good. Tight and modern as the album title suggests, but also dangerous and beautiful in a primal, wild animal sort of way. Special thanks to new guy Adrian Belew‘s guitar athletics. And his vocals aren’t bad either. Not exactly rapping on Elephant Talk. Not singing either. Just arguing, agreeing, babbling, bantering, ballyhooing, chattering, chit-chatting, diatribing … and so on. Which is rather what the world sounded like in those days. As it still does.

KingCrimson-1981-backstage(photo found at Youtube)

325. perpetual change

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the original 1971 studio recording of Yes’s Perpetual Change. It just doesn’t go as far as strong as gobsmackingly wow!!! as the 1972 live recording that showed up on the triple live set Yessongs. Because they really do set the atmosphere on fire here, one of the last tracks ever recorded with drummer Bill Bruford, so yeah, the classic Yes lineup (my version of it anyway), which does need to be raved about if only for that point maybe halfway through Perpetual Change where the band are effectively playing two completely different songs at the same insane time, and it works, finally blowing off into a feedback overload that quickly segues into a Jon Anderson vocal harmony, and then BAM!!! into an extended outro, the tightest band on the planet at the time (seriously, even Led Zeppelin had to be looking over their shoulders in 1972) bouncing back and forth from improvised bits to insanely abrupt changes, on and on, higher and deeper until the only real flaw, which is the overextended drum solo (not bad, just not necessary). As a musician friend once put it, Perpetual Change is the secret to everything that was great about Yes, because they were perpetual change (up until around 1975 anyway), not just evolving from album to album, but within the songs themselves. Everything was possible and they had the smarts (and the chops) to make it so.” (Philip Random)

408. thela hun gingeet

It’s 1981 and King Crimson main man Robert Fripp has reformed the band (after better part of seven years in the wilderness) with a whole new sound and Discipline, and the result is thundering (to put it mildly). Thela Hun Gingeet translates as Heat In The Jungle and it concerns an experience that Adrian Belew (the new guy) had while out for a walk with a tape recorder in the still rather mean streets of NYC. Word is, it actually caused stereo systems to catch fire back in the day.

KingCrimson-1981-liveEDIT

002. reSEARCH – liars + rivers

Installment #2 of what we’re calling The Research Series aired Sunday, March-18-2018.

The plan is for a total of forty-nine movies, each forty-nine minutes long, featuring no particular artist, working no particular theme, pursuing no particular agenda beyond boldly going … who knows? Or as Werner Von Braun once put it, “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” And we definitely have no idea where all this will take us.

reS-02-exoticSLEEPER

002. reSEARCH – liars + rivers

Gram Parsons + Emmylou Harris – love hurts
Van Morrison – you don’t pull no punches but you don’t push the river
Bill Bruford – Sahara of snow [part 1]
George Harrison – in the bed
Canned Heat – on the road again
Tony Wilson – Saturn [fragment]
Rip Rig + Panic – liars [part 2]
Sly + the Family Stone – spaced cowboy
Bourbonese Qualk – boggy creek
John Lee Hooker – doin’ the shout
Young Marble Giants – searching for Mr Right
Crusaders – that’s how I feel

Further installments of the Research Stuff will air most Sundays at approximately 1am (Pacific time) c/o CiTR.FM.101.9, with streaming and download options usually available within twenty-four hours via our Facebook page.

 

561. industry

As the story goes, Robert Fripp shut down the original King Crimson in 1974, claiming an overall disgust with the way the music industry world was going in those days. Of course, it could be argued that was version seven anyway, so many members having already come and gone from the Crimson court since 1969. But the intervening silence was inarguable. Nothing until 1981 when a fresh line-up kicked into gear with a whole new Discipline, which was maybe starting to lose some of its freshness come 1984’s Three of a Perfect Pair. But not on Side Two. Not Industry. That was what the world actually sounded like in 1984. Everything grinding, droning, hissing, giving off toxic vapors, finally erupting with savage urgency.

KingCrimson-1983

659. Asbury Park

To clarify. King Crimson first performed as a unit in early 1969, quickly knocked the world onto its head by more or less inventing so-called progressive rock, then proceeded to do just that for the next five years. They progressed. The line-up was ever mutating, as were the sounds. Only one thing remained unchanged. Robert Fripp remained seated as he played his mellotron and planet fracturing guitar. Asbury Park is a live improv from a show at the Asbury Park Casino on June 28, 1974, one of the last shows from the last King Crimson tour of the 1970s after which Mr. Fripp would shut the whole outfit down because he’d come to despise the industry he was in, and what it was doing to him. Not that he and King Crimson brand wouldn’t return half a decade later.  But that is a whole other discipline.

KingCrimson-1974-2