Monday, August 27, 2012

King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon

   Shortly after their 1969 debut, in January 1970 at the very same Wessex Sound Studios in London where they made up their first, King Crimson started recording sessions for the second album. It took nearly four months in studio and in May 15th, 1970 new album was released by Island label in UK and Atlantic in US. This was quite tough moment for the band. There were different  and contradictory tendencies among musicians. After only one year the band became unstable and begin constantly rebuilding its line-up with frequent broke-ups. The situation lasts from the December 1969, when Ian McDonald and Michael Giles left the band to the middle of 1971. But since later line-ups were changing rapidly and musicians were playing in different configurations, you can tell this is constant problem with this band. But even taking into account artistic disagreements, in Spring 1970 there was still great atmosphere for experimenting with rock and crossing it virtually with every genre.
   On second album, called In the Wake of Poseidon basic line-up of the band has been reduced to Robert Fripp playing guitar, mellotron & devices, lyricist Peter Sinfield, singer Greg Lake and drummer Michael Giles who appeared only on studio recordings. Greg Lake was at the moment involving in Keith Emerson’s new project which has to be Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Robert Fripp invited to the studio friends he recorded and played before, Mel Collins playing saxophones and flute, bassist Peter Giles, pianist Keith Tippett and Gordon Haskell singing in Cadence and Cascade. Also these musicians were presenting various aspirations. Brothers Giles were open for Fripp’s ideas, but didn’t ready for touring, Keith Tippett was jazz musician and composer on his own and Gordon Haskell, who was Robert Fripp’s friend but wasn’t convinced of his ideas. Mel Collins occurred to be important member of the band with strong influence on directions of the band’s progress.

King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon (1970)

   Cover of second King Crimson’s album is displaying 1967 painting by Tammo De Jongh called The 12 Archetypes or The 12 Faces of Humankind. Psychedelic, dark and mysterious visions in Sinfield’s lyrics, music build on obsessive repetitions, citations and sound of the band. In The Devil’s Triangle dominate citations of Mars: Bringer of War from suite The Planets by Gustav Holst. This setting was played during band’s concerts in 1969 under title Mars, but in time of editing the album this title was forbidden by the legal estate of the composer. Construction of the album has a concentric pattern. The axis is Fripp’s theme Peace in vocal version in the opening, solo guitar theme in the center episode and vocal in the ending one. Just like in first album different trends are reflected in varying compositions. Second album designates the moment when Robert Fripp started to serve as the leader of the band. His ideas, not always shared by musicians of the band, but consequently realized became gradually main force of the band. This great musician and creative artist was naturally predisposed for this role. Of course, it is easier to talk about some processes from the perspective of next decades, but it is still an adventure giving you experience and helping to understand cultural mechanisms.
   Criticism against King Crimson’s second album refers usually to some repetitions of formal concepts used on previous one. It’s a strange attitude considering most of rock bands used the same concepts again and again to complete exhaustion. The fact is In the Wake of Poseidon is less radical, it sounds less chaotic and brings lots of new ideas in sound and construction. Actually this works can be seen as searching for relative stability while In the Court of the Crimson King was revolutionary piece of art. But demanding a next revolution, as some critics did only few months after the first, looks ridiculous. Compositions included on the second album of King Crimson are more compact and consequent than those known from In the Court of the Crimson King. It is also better edited in an artistic and technical meaning, with more proportional dynamics, more balance between discipline and chaos. This makes Peter Sinfield’s poetry sounds mysterious and yet more justified. And it’s a good idea to listen both even if the goal would be to track similarities between these two.

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