Over the last few years, King Crimson has splintered off (or fractalised, as guitarist Robert Fripp describes it) into four individual 'projeKcts.' Each projeKct features a different lineup of either 3 or 4 members of the group, performing all new material. Within the confines of this box set, each projeKct is given their own disc. One of the things that the Crims do best is improvise. Unfortunately in the case of The ProjeKcts, they may have taken the improvisation a bit too far. In most cases, there's nothing to indicate any semblance of a melody in these 'songs.' To make things worse, the material all segues together, making it next to impossible to discern one track from the next. While the majority of the material was recorded live, there is little to give one the impression that they are listening to a live recording. It doesn't have that live 'feel' to it at all.
Disc one is entitled Live at the Jazz Café. The group consists of Fripp, Trey Gunn on 'touch guitar,' Bill Bruford on drums and percussion, and Tony Levin on bass, Stick, and synth. The CD's nine tracks all have cryptic titles like "4 i 1," 1 ii 2," and "2 ii 3" and the booklet gives no explanation of what they mean. There are a few places throughout the disc where Levin sets up some cool grooves for the other three to improvise on, but overall, the songs never go anywhere.
ProjeKct Two's disc is called Live Groove. This is actually the second release from this lineup (Fripp, Adrian Belew on V-drums, and Trey Gunn on 'touch' guitar and guitar). In 1998, the group released the more accessible Space Groove album. Unfortunately, none of that material appears here. However, what does appear is Trey Gunn's entertaining (and quite lengthy) road diaries, detailing the 'incident' with a concertgoer in Cleveland. Apparently the person didn't know that Fripp is vehemently opposed to any kind of photography at shows (although there are a number of photos of him scattered throughout the box).
During an instrumental version of "21st Century Schizoid Man," the person stepped right up in front of Fripp and snapped a picture. Fripp immediately put down his guitar and walked offstage--refusing to go back out until the photographer gave up his film. After about 7 or 8 minutes of people yelling at the poor fan who took the picture, he/she finally went to the soundboard as requested and gave up the film. Soon after that, Fripp returns to the stage with the exposed film dangling from his hand like a war trophy. The band continues from where they left off for another 60 seconds or so to close the show. End of disc two.
ProjeKct Three's disc is entitled Masque. Here, the group consists of Fripp and Gunn, this time with Pat Mastelotto on electronic traps and buttons. Recorded in 6 locations across Texas and Tennessee, Mastelotto did a lot of editing in the studio to enhance the listening experience (he started out with over 9 hours of music). As the liner notes say, "put your CD in random mode to continue the improvisation." Musically, the 13-part "Masque" starts out with some fairly intense Fripp guitar work, then goes into a menacing bass lick before eventually quieting down (temporarily) into a spacey new age soundscape.
Over the course of the next 54 minutes, the group weaves its way through a wide assortment of sounds, ranging from the ethereal to the disturbing. This is not music for the narrow-minded listeners out there. Fripp's road diaries make up the Masque liner notes. When he's not complaining about his lack of privacy and fans wanting autographs, etc, they're quite interesting. We know the music is complex and requires your full attention, but lighten up Robert. These are the people who are buying your records. At least for now...
Of the four discs, ProjeKct Four's West Coast Live is the most enjoyable. This version of the group consists of ProjeKct Three plus Tony Levin. It's Levin's bass work that gives the material the kick it needs. The highlights of the disc are the 9-part "Ghost," the frenetic "Hindu Fizz" and "The Deception of the Thrush" (an eerier version appears on Live Groove). The liner notes in the disc are entertaining to say the least, and a welcome relief after reading Fripp's whining diatribes in disc three. Written by tour merchandise man, Sid Smith, the booklet describes the "sordid tales of chiropractors, coffee, butt cleavage and bookshops, raccoons, prostitutes and the truth about what Tony Levin actually said to the belly dancer." Not to mention the grueling two-week search for a copy of The Partridge Family Christmas Album. Seriously.
The ProjeKcts is not an easy listen by any stretch of the imagination. Some people may find this box set downright annoying. Longtime Crim heads will be in their glory, although it still may take awhile to really appreciate. People with more of an inquisitive attitude towards all this are probably better off with the compilation disc, The Deception of the Thrush. But if you aren't afraid to take musical risks, and prefer your music a bit more challenging, this could be exactly what you're looking for.
|© 2000 Steve Marshall|