King Crimson: THRAK

King Crimson: THRAK is released.
# allmusic 4/5

THRAK is an album by the band King Crimson released in April,  1995, the successor to the preceding mini-album Vrooom (1994). This album was recorded in the “double trio” format of King Crimson.

For guitarist-composer Robert Fripp, the visceral power of rock music has always been an inspiration. And since forming King Crimson in the late ’60s, few instrumentalists have done more to extend the sonic range of the electric guitar or rock song structure than Robert Fripp. But the guitarist also counts world rhythm musics, 20th Century classical composition, modern jazz and contemporary electronics among his many interests. And with THRAK, Fripp and King Crimson have created their most compelling synthesis of art and noise, a thrashing suite made up of contrasting, interconnected motifs. This groaning beast of an album is fabricated from the roiling roar of dissonance and classic power riffs and animated by a complex series of rhythm changes, opulent lyric contrasts, heady contrapuntal interplay and stunning solo flights.

In rethinking his concept of King Crimson, Fripp has reconstituted the band as a double trio, in which Fripp teams with Stick virtuoso Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto, while lead vocalist-guitarist Adrian Belew answers back with bassist Tony Levin and electronic percussion innovator Bill Bruford. Together they achieve a rare blend of intuitive power and formal design, from the classic King Crimson rumble of “Vrooom” to the menacing variations of “Dinosaur,” on which Belew’s Lennonesque vocal echoes Fripp’s pride in having avoided extinction, as the band exhumes the bones of the Beatles, Hendrix, Bartok and the late Romantics from their fossil digs.

But THRAK offers a wide range of textures and moods. With its bell-like arpeggios and flute-like ornaments, the ragaish “Walking On Air” is as lovely a ballad as Crimson has ever produced. “B’Boom” finds the drummers in an electro-acoustic dialogue, meshing haunting urban-industrial sounds into a ritualistic percussive web of African-styled polyrhythms. The crashing rhythmic cycles of the title tune are an avuncular nod to today’s meanderings of noise, while the funky “People” and dreamy “One Time” present song structures ready-made for progressive college programmers. THRAK is a diverse, dynamic, polished recital.

by Daniel Gioffre, allmusic
The only progressive rock band from the ’60s to be making new, vital, progressive music in the ’90s, King Crimson returned from a ten-year exile in 1995 with THRAK, their first album since 1984’s 3 of a Perfect Pair. As with the ’80s band, guitarist/ringleader Robert Fripp recruited singer/guitarist Adrian Belew, bassist Tony Levin, and drummer Bill Bruford for this incarnation of his classic band. However, he added to this familiar quartet two new members: Chapman Stick player Trey Gunn and ex-Mr. Mister drummer Pat Mastelotto. Effectively, Fripp created a “double trio,” and the six musicians combine their instruments in extremely unique ways. The mix is very dense, overpoweringly so at times, but careful listens will reveal that each musician has his own place in each song; the denseness of the sound is by design, not the accidental result of too many cooks in the kitchen. Sometimes, as in “THRAK,” the two trios are set against each other, in some sort of musical faux combat. In others, they just combine their respective sounds to massive effect. On “Dinosaur,” perhaps the strongest track on the record, Mastelotto and Bruford set up an ominous tom-tom groove that supports an even more ominous guitar figure. The vocal, the musings of a long-dead sauropod, are vintage Belew, just as the freaky, falling-down-the-stairs solo in the middle is vintage Fripp. Other high points include the drum duet “B’Boom” and the two Belew/Fripp “Inner Garden” pieces. Allusions to earlier Crimson abounds, such as the form of “VROOM,” for example, which is suspiciously reminiscent of “Red” (from the 1974 album of the same name), or the shout-out to “The Sheltering Sky” (from 1981’s Discipline) in “Walking on Air.” Thankfully, this never gets annoying, but instead acts as a subtle nudge and a wink to faithful fans. King Crimson came back in a major way with THRAK, and proved that, even in its fourth major incarnation, Fripp and company still had something to say. High-quality prog.

All songs written by Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford, Robert Fripp, Trey Gunn, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto.
“VROOOM” – 4:38
“Coda: Marine 475” – 2:41
“Dinosaur” – 6:37
“Walking on Air” – 4:38
“B’Boom” – 4:11
“THRAK” – 3:59
“Inner Garden I” – 1:47
“People” – 5:53
“Radio I” – 0:44
“One Time” – 5:22
“Radio II” – 1:03
“Inner Garden II” – 1:16
“Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream” – 4:50
“VROOOM VROOOM: Coda” – 3:01


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