King Crimson have not been too fruitful in studio works in the last twenty years (just five albums before this one). But the marvelous side of the group, what makes them admirable is that they only appeared when they had something to say and that when they had already told everything, they disappeared until they found something different to offer. With this last work King Crimson seem to have fallen in the trap that they had always avoided.
The impeccable double trio of the 90s has been cut down into a quartet: Adrian Belew -guitar and voice-, Pat Mastelotto -percussion-, Trey Gunn -guitar baritone and touch guitars-, evaluations of the stick, Robert Fripp -guitar-. The two immense rhythm supports of KC, Tony Levin and Bill Bruford have been taken away, for not very clear reasons. Anyway the variability of the formation of this band has been a constant along its history.
On the other hand it is necessary to highlight that King Crimson had been for three years submerged in the most absolute experiment denominated by Fripp as "fractalization". This event supposed the division the double trio in small units which combined different parts of the band, ending up in four "projects", as the units were called. With them, King Crimson investigated improvised music, technology and the most current sounds above all in percussion sounds- and, after all, they gave infinite interpretations to their capacity, showing the original they could be. As a result, besides excellent music, they produced bewilderment and curiosity toward the aims of the new King Crimson without the flag of the projeKct. Well, the result is that there is nothing of them here. There is not any reflection of any type. If the projects were a new form of composing, of obtaining ideas, of extracting a new King Crimson, they have been a work in vain. What cuts down "The construKction of light" is that it sounds too much as King Crimson. Of course that this is pleasing as soon as that the likeness, without judging some shades, with the KC of, for example, Thrak remains. But that King Crimson do not surprise is something to take into account and the album, frankly, doesn't surprise.
What appears in the construction is something like a mixture of the contemporary King Crimson with some reference to the time "Larks-Red". The formal style is basically the same, with certain differences, to the sound 90s ("Thrak") that acts as a solvent for the character. In fact it is a very, very aggressive as well as dense album, without any time to rest, which doesn't mean it is uncontrolled. Without being cold, it is noticed that it is more organized than "Thrak", possibly because, on the contrary to that album, it has been recorded line by line. In fact there are very constant and quite boring fragments, too long, as almost the whole piece "The world's my Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum" (a joke?). In "Into the Frying Pan" the main riff is almost a repetition of the mixture of upward and descending melody of the coda of "Vrooom" (1995) (in addition the voices are like those of Belew in solitary and totally Beatles). In occasions we listen to bases -crystalline arpeggios to two guitars- and melodies compatible with the eighties sound, like in "The construKction of light". On the other hand there are references to the seventies as for the continuation of tremendous instrumental works, that is to say: "FracKtured" and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic-Part IV". Both pieces are of an overwhelming complexity in execution as in composition (the best in the album). The 4th part of "Larks'...". is continued by a coda called "I have to Dream". It is equally abrupt but more lyrical, mainly for the support with the synthesized guitar of Robert Fripp to quite dramatic solo of Belew. It continues in the pattern of "Thrak". A curious fact is that there is a blues. Undoubtedly it is a blues as the completely neurotic King Crimson would make it. It is called "ProzaKc Blues". It is a dark agony, with the voice displaced artificially to low registrations. But there are many more nuances to comment.
The change in formation has had its impact on the sound. Robert Fripp acts a lot in the rhythm land, doing without his melodic sound with lingering notes. The soundscapes are more discreet than ever. The guitars are very guided to the combination with those of Adrian Belew, carrying out common arpeggios in clean and games with a lot of displacement and rhythm syncopation in the distorted spaces. Rhythms not to disdain. We find Adrian Belew is disoriented. He commented on the projeKct that he didn't know very well what he would do in the comeback of King Crimson and that, regrettably, is noticed. Either he appeals to the seventies melodies that don't coordinate very well with the Crimson aspect, or his voice is processed totally and in too many occasions. He also has prominent vocal moments as in "The construKction of light". He continues being an original and versatile guitarist. He takes charge of most of the solos, quite brilliantly. By the way that is surprising because it is the album where they stick more to the concept of "space dedicated explicitly inside some limits to a solo". If in King Crimson there were solos, the rest continued sounding free, without limits, dynamically being integrated in some way to the solo. Now they sound more classified, delimiting the surprise. Trey Gunn continues improving. He has moved away from the Fripp cloning. He has confronted the loss of Tony Levin's support with a class, a style and a capacity worthy of the best of the ovations. His basslines are exquisite and elegant even in those moments of impossible compass. Superb, certainly. The nucleus of the discord for many will be Pat Mastelotto because to lose the thirty-years drums history of Bill Bruford and to base percussion on electronics is to be taken into account.
Bruford would have undoubtedly endowed the disk of great wealth, but Mastelotto is not Bruford and it is very difficult to be him. First it is necessary to assume the timbre of the -dense, monotonous, insistent- electronic drums, which is a question of chemistry. The second is that the electronic is always very much more lineal and less expressive than the acoustic drums. Like it or not, Mastelotto seems to have very clear what he wants to make with the percussion and he is guided to the support of very concrete accents of the pieces, as much the most normal as the movements or the cuts. Maybe this is the closest of KC to the projeKct to the Two maybe - for its random character. In any case, it sounds more as percussion, made to supplement Bill Bruford in the 90s that to a complete base. It lacks something, although we insist in that it seems that the intention was that: an attempt to change the sound of Crimson. It could sound simple, without forgetting that the rhythmic games of the album are of high level. He lacks the personality that King Crimson members usually have.
The album has ups and downs. Tracks as "The construKction of light" (where it is noticed the influence of the best Gunn), "Larks.. & Coda" or "FraKctured" leave clear that King Crimson is the elite. Others as "Into the Frying Pan" or "The World's..." are a question mark. It is necessary to insist in the complexity, the excellent execution, with a character exclusively King Crimson. It is a good album, but it is not brilliant. The problem is that a five-year interval dedicated to the experimentation and seemingly guided to the search of new styles has been useless. Had it been released a year or two after "Thrak", as in the pieces of the years 1973-74 and 1981-84, King Crimson would have been very coherent and The construKction of light would not deserve any concern. Maybe the enormous activity with the projeKcts has become an end in itself, not a means for an end, paraphrasing Fripp. Have they supposed so much that when building the light they have disoriented, without anything to offer? Have they vampired the innovative character of KC? Should they have waited to assume the results without fatigue?
The work is musically as good as one can expect from a band like this in which the capacity of its musicians has been shown repeatedly. However, a King Crimson album should be also good in a key concept: investigation, the search of new expressions. King Crimson has not surprised. The problem of having a name.