Review Summary: A return from a ten year hiatus, THRAK is a move from 80s new wave essences, to 90s post-industrialism, and may become as influential as earlier experiments if given time.
When the 8th generation of King Crimson trundled onto stage left in 1981, it was commonly thought that by the time that year’s album Discipline
drew to a close, you’d be reading about the 9th generation in the music tabloids the next day. Maybe you’d even be applying for an ad in the same journal advertised by lead guitarist Robert Fripp, asking for anyone to fill the necessary position. But for some strange, almost backward reason, the King Crimson quartet, including (at this stage) Tony Levin, Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford, managed to stick together for a whole
three albums. It must have seemed too good to be true for poor Fripp, who up until that point served not only as the lead musician, but also the communicator, instigator and negotiator, and only surviving original member.
The new founded continuity was certainly welcome, and ultimately assisted in fashioning their new-wave/prog-experimental fusion during the 80s. 1984’s Three of a Perfect Pair
was to be their last in the busy decade however, after the group settled unreservedly for the hiatus position. THRAK
came about only ten years later, after its playful precursor EP VROOM
in 1994, which would later serve as the main source of influence for their new material. None better is this influence represented by the opening track itself is “Vroom”
. Offering a taste palette of what you are likely to hear on the recording, Vroom isn’t radically far away from the genuine KC sound, utilising discordant lead guitar and quirky-bounce bass lines.
Even though it would have seemed logical to keep the efficient 80s line-up starkly intact, Fripp’s tinkering hands added Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto (Mr. Mister) to the table, thus creating what’s most commonly referred to as the ‘double trio’. The task of capturing these two forces effectively was left to producer David Bottrill (Peter Gabriel/Tool). By separating each trio at either channel, or fusing them together, Bottrill creates time spent between either friendly sonic conflicts, or mounting escapades as each of the groups coalesce. The idea while not so unique in itself, is probably one of the best representations of what two super-minds (in this case each trio) can create in a seemingly impossible realm of keeping within the respectable lines of synchronicity. Many of the tracks presented utilise this form of engagement such as “B’boom”
, a battle between drummers Mastelotto and Bruford, and the earlier “Coda: Marine 475”
, a cyclic chromatic decent between the trios’ melodic members.
While later on the “Thrak”
tune itself sounds like it went on to influence Tool during Ænima with its highly syncopated dance, the flipside also shows many opportunities for easy digestion. The plodding rhythms of “Dinosaur”
act rather literally to the topic at hand given by Belew’s slurred shrieking. He tones down the quintessential slurred vocal during the near-pop single“People”
and then regurgitates it later during “Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream”
behind rhythmical synth-blues. The recording isn’t without its more introspective moments, witnessed best in “One Time”
and “Walking on Air”
where both Levin and Gunn showcase immaculacy for the warmth of the Chapman Stick.
King Crimson never has been a group of adherence. Here like so many other albums the lines of are merely pushed to their limits, untangled, re-tangled and then pushed back again, all the while maintaining complete listenability. The album whilst certainly quite accessible also shows similarities of earlier albums discovering new sounds with each tuning point. Not without its flaws, sometimes drawing musically to areas which never really have anything to begin, let alone end or return to, THRAK sounds exactly as the word itself said; attacking, eventful and abstract.