The mousy, bespectacled guitar genius and seemingly indefatigable leader and creative engine behind King Crimson has remained an enigmatic presence for over 40 years, consistently responsible for some of the most eccentric, precise and challenging rock music of the idiom. This month sees Fripp at the helm of two projects, one new and one archival, which just verify his standing both then and now. First is the King Crimson masterpiece Lark’s Tongues In Aspic which is one of the jewels of the already impressive King Crimson reissue campaign. Lark’s Tongues is being issued as a 2 CD or a CD/DVD package on November 27th or is available now as a super deluxe 15 disc set including CDs, DVDs and a Blu Ray filled with live shows, outtakes, surround mixes and videos compiled into an overwhelming monument to this overwhelmingly monumental album. Released in 1972, Lark’s Tongues finds one of the great Crimson lineups (Fripp, Bill Bruford on drums, Jamie Muir on percussion, John Wetton on bass and vocals and David Cross on violin and flute) at the magical crossroads of youthful creativity and mature instrumental mastery. This beautiful box set includes every note this particular band played together and it is a thrilling ride. Lark’s Tongues has everything that makes King Crimson great; melodic ballads (“Book Of Saturday,” “Exiles”), long, complicated works with tension-filled buildups and cathartic refrains (the title track), and the kind of skronky rawk that so many thick-bespectacled sci-fi nerds fell in love with in the 70’s (“Talking Drum” and “Easy Money”). King Crimson made the waters safer for thinking man’s music in the mainstream and Lark’s Tongues In Aspic is as good an example of this as any they produced.
Robert Fripp has recently produced an album with British jazz/classical horn player Theo Travis called Follow that shows him in a much more contemplative but no less experimental mode. Follow is a series of instrumental duets that have elements of ambient music, new age, electronic, world and jazz. Fripp, once again, shows he can do it all, playing thick textural backgrounds for Travis to solo over, or leading the way with his snakey electric tone and carefully constructing fills. He also revisits his concept of “Frippertronics” (layer upon layer of looped guitar phrases culminating in a literal wall of sound) on a song called, appropriately enough, “1979.” The CD comes with a DVD of surround mixes and video of the duo playing together in a church. This is far from the rock ethic of King Crimson but is a beautifully satisfying addition to the Robert Fripp canon and again shows him to be a master of his instrument no matter what the context.
-by Paul Epstein