Stick Men 2015 / MoonJune 2016
Going into the red, most intrepid part of the CRIMSO family flex their unpredictable muscle in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Deliciously volatile and ever-fluctuating, this group operate within a loose wireframe which gives them full improvisational freedom both as a single, and singular, unit and as part of a larger collective. To defy the notion of triangle being the most stable shape even further, Tony Levin, Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto went to Japan in April 2015 as a quartet, with David Cross upping the KING CRIMSON quotient, and here are two of the four shows the ensemble played there. Partial overlap provide for a convenient comparison yet doesn’t make the recordings easily interchangeable, as the first of them demonstrates more reserve, and the second one is way more dangerous and reckless. It surely wasn’t the plan, though, as the plan isn’t major ingredient of the band’s formula.
This is very much obvious from Reuter’s introductory soundscapes – nebulous, if menacing, “Gaudy” on one disc and the lighter, but dynamics-embracing, “Cyan” on the other, which sees the rhythm section cut to the chase sooner, with the impressionistic-to-insistent “Midori” – usually born on the spot but anchored with Cross’ violin and mellotron for the less otherworldly effect now. The spotlight shifting all the time, the slightly madcap “Blacklight” comes sparse guitar-wise, albeit pregnant with expectancy, thanks to Mastelotto’s tom-toms work, that resolves down the line with the gently scripted “Shades Of Starless” hanging heartbreakingly on the classic “Red” ballad. The lyrical aspect of the combo’s approach is elevated with the fiddle on the “Hide The Trees” skank and deepened by Levin’s low tones, while the trio infuse the chestnut of “Sartori In Tangier” with a nervously riveting groove.
Its elegant Eastern flavor is contrasted with “Breathless” whose heavy foil reveals the same scope as “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part 2” which brings the fervor out of all four players and draws proceedings to a close in an aggressively orchestral manner. On percussive front, the juxtaposition of pre-selected patterns and the “in the zone” extemporizing runs between the increasingly intensive swirl in “The Talking Drum” and the gripping clang of “Industry” that’s given the Stick for vibrancy, all of this accumulating in a clang and cracked harmonies imposed on Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.” This classic title can be applied to the whole of the performance, because it’s red hot, and cool, throughout – quite a beat to march to.