Saturday, October 5, 2013

Round 1 Continued Red v THRaKaTTaK

When the pairings were made initially Red automatically was going into the second round based on its high ranking.  As I scoured through Crimson's back catalog I realized that there was indeed an album it could go against.  No, it was not a long lost LP, or even an EP for that matter.  Rather it is a compilation of live improvisations from the Thrak era called THRaKaTTaK.  I shrugged and threw it into the mix, not totally aware of what would happen next.


By that I mean I had not listened to THRaKaTTaK in a very long time.  I had casually clicked through it about a year ago waiting for the actual songs to happen.  At the time I was not aware what it was, and assumed it to be an LP or live album I was not aware of.  After all, I had only stumbled upon the album after a member of an online forum that shared music interests with me suggested I give it a listen.

So to explain, During King Crimson's ambitious Thrak tour, which featured their most ambitious line-up to date, they would play a song called Thrak.  Thrak had the tendency to feature various improvisations after the initial song, Robert Fripp found them interesting enough to compile them into one album, hence THRaKaTTaK.

THRaKaTTaK is a daunting listen.  Aside from the 4 minutes or so of actual Thrak, the listener is subjected to roughly 50 minutes of unscripted music, the melodies and tempos constructed on the fly.  It is a challenging listen to say the least and not for the faint of heart.  So is that to say it is bad?  Hard to say, since this kind of unscripted music is not something everyone can get behind.  Even for someone like me who loves unparalleled chaos in his sounds I have a hard time swallowing this pill.

Red on the other hand, oh boy.  What can be said about Red except for it is essentially a perfect release.  A raw and savage album composed by the remaining three members of the third form of King Crimson.  The line-up which had started with five people had finally dwindled to a skeleton crew of bass, guitar, and drums.  Robert Fripp was essentially a vegetable due to thinking the world was going to end as more like two and a half people.  It is amazing that three musicians could put together such a ferocious album, half of the members that are in the Thrak line-up, and it is shocking Red even made it to record store shelves.  Everything from its murderous self-titled instrumental opener to the crushing conclusion of Starless show that  the album is on full throttle the whole time.  I am always blown-away at how overlooked this release is compared to some of the earlier releases from the court.

Is it fair to even compare these two?  No not really since THRaKaTTaK is hardly a complete album, or an intended composition.  Rather it is just a collection of improvised thoughts and ideas, that while interesting, can hardly be compared to the freight train power of Red.  Once I saw this match-up I felt bad for THRaKaTTaK.  Not so much because I knew it was going to lose nearly regardless of what it went up against, but rather because it would never get its due justice in this segment.  It really needs some serious analysis and processing to appreciate.  It is an album you need to listen to with a good pair of headphones to digest.

In a way, like Red, it is shocking how anything of significance could come from the improvised sections of the Thrak line-up.  Six members essentially doing whatever they want is far from a recipe for good sounding music, yet it oddly works.  We have six musicians here who really understand each other and how to play off each other.  For the experimental or progressive music listener I can't recommend enough trying this album out.

Red on the other hand, is for everyone.  It is astonishing how good of an album it is.  More on that later.  For now we give THRaKaTTaK the good effort trophy it deserves while sadly telling it it will not be continuing onto the next round.

Winner (obviously):