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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 12. June 16, 1971

Record — In the wake of Poseidon


In the wake of Poseidon

What is King Crimson? King Crimson is one of the new progressive groups that appear on the Vertigo label. They are in very good company as this record label has done a lot to promote underground groups such as Magna Carta, Black Sabbath, Juicy Lucy, Nucleus, Warhorse and many others. So by virtue of association King Crimson are cast in this mould of underground music.

The group were introduced to New Zealand in early 1971 by the release of their LPs, In the court of the crimson king, an album which was described as "a great achievement ' and "one of the most original in years." Since that LP the group membership has changed: the talented lan McDonald has left and Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Michael Giles, and Peter Sinfield have been joined by Peter Giles, Keith Tippet, Mel Collins, and Gordon Haskell - the original five piece group is now enlarged to eight. With such a formidable lineup change I was a bit apprehensive about this new LP, in that I felt it would be difficult to keep the original King Crimson sound, so I found it remarkable that the new LP is essentially the same in total musical construction as their first. It is, I think, a tribute to Fripp and Singield that the original sound has been kept although the group has been infused by new members. McDonald's influence remains in the several tracks he has co-authored.

The group's music is original - I quote; "King Crimson play their own material. It is hard to image them doing anything else. The music is fluid and beautiful. And new." King Crimson is a progressive group - they explore the outer spectrum of sound, and if they had existed several years ago King Crimson would have been hailed for their originality and distinctive musical style. But I am afraid that they have come too late, and their talent seems to be submerged in the mishmash that pervades the popular music scene today.

Side One of In the wake of Poseidon is a series of contrasting tunes which begins with Peace - a beginning. A voice slowly echoes form the wilderness of silence:

I am the ocean
lit by the flame
I am the mountain
Peace is my name
I am the river
Touched by the wind
I am the story
I never end.

This contrasts into Pictures of a city, including 42nd at treadmill. City can only be described as harsh - the hard music and vocals amplify the harsh lyrics. Treadmill is a quiet instrumental which is dominated by Fripp's guitar (and later mellotron) and Mile Giles' drums. It slowly builds up to a climax on which explodes the last verse of City:

Blind stick blind drunk cannot see
Mouth dry tongue tied cannot speak
Concrete dream flesh broken shell
Lost soul lost trace lost in hell

Sinfield's highly condensed lyrics are obvious from the above verse - he tends to capture very intense, personal, and highly fleeting images of, in this case, stark reality.

The third track is entitled Cadence and Cascade and as the title implies it is a rhythmical sequence of chords. This is a quiet, lyrical tune where the vocalist is accompanied by unobtrusive drums and an acoustic guitar, with the later addition of a piano. Mel Collins' flute solo helps the quiet attitude of the tune, but the lyrics are vague (I suspect that either Sinfield's images are becoming too condensed or that I can't grasp their obvious meaning). I suppose that I pass this tune off because essentially it's not my type of music, but I do recognize the quiet beauty in its construction.

The last track on Side One is In the Wake of Poseidon, including Libra's theme. This is King Crimson in their element. In both music and lyrics it is similar to Epitaph from their previous LP, and like City it promotes harsh lyrics. Sinfield's words are put across firmly but not loudly:

Plato's spawn cold ivyed eyes
Snare truth in bone and globe
page break Harlequins coin pointless games
Sneer jokes in parrot's robe.

At this point I would ask what the hell the words mean. A look back to Epitaph shows us lyrics that can be understood but still have the same harsh ring as those above:

The wall on which the prophets wrote
Is cracking at the seams.
Upon the instruments of death
The sunlight brightly gleams.

In Poseidon the dominating instrument is the mellotron, which seems to invade and fill all the vacuum in the tune, with contrast being provided by the drums. Libra's theme is a logical instrumental extension of Poseidon and the two are intimately woven together by Fripp's mellotron. I find the whole track rather misnamed - Poseidon was a mythological sea god, and bearing this in mind I find that the aquatic connotations of the track require a bit of imagination. This track to me promotes a more universal concept of environment.

Side Two opens with an acoustic guitar giving us a false beginning - the quiet instrumental is equated with Peace but it soon mutates into Catfood. I find this tune rather distasteful, perhaps because it smacks too much of modern reality. Hard and disjointed notes equate with the harsh lyrics. Keith Tippet's piano improvisations deserve special mention, along with some sections of the insturmentals, but little else does. Nuff said!

We come now to the instrumental highlight of the record, which encompasses four sections: The Devil's Triangle, Merday Morn, Hand of Sceiron, and Garden of Worm - all four sections are intricately linked and must be considered as one.

A martial drumbeat slowly evolves from the outer silence to merge with the slow introduction of a mellotron, giving an incredible, slow, almost deadly rhythum. The drums go on beating, providing a base on which the mellotron launches into wave after wave of long, drawn-out, beautiful notes. The only other piece of music which I think provides the same powerful feelings is "Mars -bringer of war' from Gustav Hoist's 'The Planets" suite.

Picture of a painting

The inevitable climax is reached and then the music fades away into the sounds of wind which eerily whistles its way through the speakers. Silence descends, to be replaced by a slow ticking. The mellotron throws itself into more incredible notes, this time at a faster tempo. The music then evolves into a type of free-form sound in which the mellotron dominates and a piano tries to make itself heard, while the drummer goes off on his own. It needs very talented musicians to carry off this style of music, and I am afraid that King Crimson don't make it - the whole sequence ends up as a musical free for all which, mercifully, is driven away by a sound which marks the return, momentarily, of the regimented music heard at the beginning. This harp-like sound fades away and we find ourselves on the last track, Peace - and end, which is an extension of Peace - a beginning.

Peace is a word
of the sea and the wind
Peace is a bird who sings
As you smile
Peace is the love
of foe as a friend
Peace is the love you bring
to a child.

This track also has some of Sinfield's most beautiful and meaningful lyrics (which are also understandable):

Searching for me
You look everywhere
Except beside you
Searching for you
You look everywhere
But not inside you.

A lonely voice slowly evolves into an echo which fades away into silence, and one could imagine the whole cycle starting again:

Peace is a dawn
On a day without end
Peace is the end, like death
Of the war.

W. Fosman

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