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King Crimson

Beat

Review by Gary Hill

Of the trio of studio albums originally released by this version of King Crimson, this was the middle child. It was also a little less adventurous than either of the other two. While Discipline was a jarring change for King Crimson and Three of A Perfect Pair seemed to represent an attempt to marry the sounds of this incarnation of King Crimson with the 1970’s lineups, this disc is sort of the middle ground between the two. A lot of this feels like extras from Discipline. Still others don’t really seem to fit – hinting at the changes we’d hear by the next disc. All in all this is a good album, if a bit nondescript.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Neal and Jack and Me
This is very typical of the Belew era of King Crimson, much of this track feeling like something from Discipline.  Still they stretch into some different territory here and there with some more atmospheric soundscapes. In fact, this is one of the more diverse of that type of Crimsoid songs. They put in several soundscapes that you wouldn’t expect at this point.

Heartbeat
I love the opening sections on this. They are in a more tentative manner with lines of sound careening over the top at points. This gives way to an almost standard rock song for the chorus. Crimson develops this into something that combines this sound with the more modern elements of the band’s sound. While this one isn’t as diverse as the opener, there are some differing soundscapes.
Sartori in Tangier
 A dramatic mellower motif leads this off. Tony Levin lays down a killer rhythmic groove and the band begin to play like crazy within this. There are (as the title would suggest) plenty of Eastern elements at play here. Then around the half way point it shifts out to a more melodic movement that carries it for a time. They power it back out after a time and the jamming is even more intense.

Waiting Man
A nearly tribal texture makes up the modern King Crimson elements that support this piece. They take this out later into some killer spacey jamming.

Neurotica
This fires out with a furious energy. It’s frantic and crazed. Noises merge with insane drumming and instrumental strangeness. They drop the musical volume (but neither the intensity or speed) down for the vocals. Those vocals are delivered in suitably crazed, fast paced modes. They seem to have a stream of consciousness lyrical content. At a little past the one minute mark they move it out into a more melodic and cohesive motif. This gives way to a hammer on sort of angular riff. It stays more “normal” for a couple minutes but switches back out into the crazed strangeness for the closing sections of the piece.

Two Hands
If you take away the angular, rubbery feeling of this it’s really a ballad. It’s got some evocative textures and such, but the whole thing has the Crimsonoid weirdness. There are still some pretty moments, though.

The Howler
This is a cool track. Much of it is quite similar to the rest of the album, but there are some weird little sections that feel almost like honking geese. There are some other twists and turns that bring some uniqueness to the track. They also put in a section that’s about as close as King Crimson will ever get to pure funk. The final movement is heavy, nearly metallic. It seems like a melding of this modern Crimson sound with the Red era of the group.
Requiem
A noisy, freeform instrumental, this piece is the least like the rest of the album. It’s also the closest they come to the old school King Crimson sound. This is an interesting piece of music and a great closer.

 
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