Nocturne and back again: CRIMSO classic makes a stellar return.
“Starless” is one of the most haunting compositions this side of pop music but its genesis was rather complicated. Main melody written and demoed by John Wetton, its gripping intro and development came from Robert Fripp and David Cross, who’d left the band by the “Red” time, yet the tune has stayed with them all for four decades. Around the piece’s anniversary the violinist reclaimed it from the guitarist – the band’s version had the original four-string figure transferred to six strings – and when David applied his four-string prism to two of Robert’s 2006 improvisations on the theme, its soundscaped vision snapped into focus.
The result is here, the solemn leitmotif running eight tracks, although, paradoxically, there’s no distillation of it in “Starless Theme” which serves like an axis for the rest of the concept to swirl on. Fripp and Cross both play Mellotron, and their coming from the same aural place finds a confluence in opener “Starless Starlight Loops” where nebulosity slowly but surely takes familiar form and builds tension within a chamber-like, delicate space. Thence Eastern tones spill into the thick flow of “In The Shadow” before the gloom starts to recede, and translucent rays glide in “Shine And Fall” on guitar lines emerging from the electronic glimmer that explores subsonic depths along the way to “One By One, The Stars Were Going Out.”
Offering a celestial panorama in organ-shaped harmonies, it welcomes the vibrancy of “Fear Of Starlight” with a new hint of the main tune that coils in a heart-gripping twang as a reflection of photophobia, while “Starlight Trio” dissolves the melody into a blues-tinctured nocturne. Atmosphere black again, “Sure Of The Dark” expands a dynamic scope of this cosmic, if extremely emotional, endeavor and hangs the motif in stasis stained with all its preceding transformations – think: overture overturned – yet doesn’t get back to the old tune. That’s how the haunting becomes eternal and spiritual. There’s no grey hope anymore.