KING CRIMSON – ” Thrak ” Box Set

Posted: April 3, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The 30th Anniversary edition of King Crimson’s “THRAK” is now available to download. Released in 1995, it features the Double Trio of Fripp, Gunn, Mastelotto, Belew, Levin & Bruford and was the first full-length King Crimson album since 1984’s Three Of A Perfect Pair. “Thrak”, was the eleventh studio album from King Crimson was released 25 years ago today. Appearing a decade after Three Of A Perfect Pair an expanded six-piece King Crimson consisting of the 80s quartet of Fripp, Belew, Levin, and Bruford augmented by Trey Gunn (touch guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (drums and percussion), reconvened and set about creating Thrak.

While I didn’t love this era of King Crimson as much as the John Wetton era there was no way I was missing out on this box set. I began buying these with “The Road To Red” and although it set me back a few hundred quid I went out and got the other three (“ITKOK”, “Larks Tongue In Aspic” and last year’s “Starless”). While the price might appear hefty on the surface, the contents are a bargain, currently this box is retailing at £95 for 12 CDs, 2 DVDs & 2 Blu Rays, you do the math, it’s a steal. At the time most fans were taken aback at the unexpected appearance of the mini-album, VROOOM. in October 1994, announcing as it did, the return of King Crimson to active service. Thrak followed in April 1995 to widespread critical acclaim.  Replete with a snarling metallic edge,the band could be heard taking a decisive leap forwards. The Double Trio, as Fripp dubbed them, deliver a brace of brand new Crimson classics, with the bulldozing riffs of VROOOM clearing the way. Dinosaur’s ironic, hook-laden choruses lurches into epic pop song territory, while the title track plunges deep into stormy, turbulent ensemble improvisation.

King Crimson has always had a habit of surprising its audiences. Since stepping off the stage at Montreal’s Le Spectrum in July 1984, Fripp, Levin, Belew, and Bruford had gone their separate ways. Although its dissolution had not been accompanied by the sombre pronouncement that King Crimson had ceased to exist forever as it had been in 1974, fans and observers could have been forgiven for assuming that there was little or no chance of King Crimson treading onto a concert stage ever again.

Onto the contents, while nowhere near as exhaustive as the Wetton era sets the emphasis hear is on quality rather than quantity.There are 3 complete live shows on CD, 2 on Blu Ray and video (an upgraded “Deja VROOOM” and an unreleased show from San Fransisco, the SF show picture quality is a long way from the rumoured HD visuals but the soundtrack is superb), an expanded version of the long out-of-print “VROOOM” EP, an audio documentary about the making of the album using outtakes from the studio session reels, the original and 2015 mixes of “Thrak” (the 5:1 mix really showcases The Double Trio as it should be heard), a CD of improvs and a CD of B-sides, outtakes and odds-and-sods.

On top of that you get a full colour book, posters, postcards and other memorabilia. Giving “Thrak” this new lease of life has really opened my eyes to what an incredible and unique album it is, I enjoyed it before but it never had the same impact on me that the likes of “Red” or “Discipline” had, now it has. King Crimson are setting the standard for this format, opening the vaults for fans in a way that no other band has, roll on the next one!

Fripp’s decision to put King Crimson back together had been made in the second half of 1990 though, as he later noted, without a clear idea of what the band would look like at that point. Clarification came two years later during the period he was working with David Sylvian.

Here’s what the Thrak Box looks like when it’s unboxed…A 16 disc limited edition box set featuring studio and live recordings – many previously unreleased – from King Crimson’s mid-1990s double trio line-up.

Highlights include a new ’21st Century stereo reimagining’ of THRAK (by Jakko Jakszyk and Robert Fripp), ATTAKcATHRAK (a David Singleton edited collection of improvs), and Max VROOOM, which sees a release for the long out of print mini-album VROOOMThe second blu-ray includes concert films, a Thrak epk and Tony Levin’s Road Movies.

Much of the material is presented in new 5.1 Surround & Hi-Resolution stereo mixes.

I came to the King Crimson party a little late in my rock fandom life. I didn’t buy Court Of the Crimson King until about six years ago, and I know this will cause some to scream .Despite that initial reaction I decided to investigate the album ‘Red’ a few years ago when I heard that it had a big influence on Kurt Cobain’s sound, now that did hit the mark and I still rate it as my favourite Crimson album. Suddenly I was looking for more King Crimson and Lark’s Tongues and Starless arrived in my collection. Also, having recently invested in a new toy to play 5.1 surround sound I was buying these CD+DVD-A versions each one impressing me both musically and in their 5.1 mixes, Steven Wilson, as usual, having done an excellent job. Then last year I thought it might be time to check out a bit of later King Crimson and decided to go for Thrak, the title just suggested it would be closer in sound to Red. Those first crashing chords to VROOOM seemed to confirm that. Another good investment I thought, that is until this summer when all of a sudden we found that a new CD DVD-A version was to be released (Along with a 16 disc box set for those with large bank accounts).

The surround sound mixes have been really impressive with all the previous Steven Wilson 5.1 mixes, Crimson are perfect for 5.1 and Mr Wilson knows just how to envelope you in their sound, but of course it’s not Steven Wilson who has mixed this album it is Robert Fripp and current guitarist and vocalist Jakko Jakszyk. It seems Wilson is not the only one who knows how to do a 5.1 mix. Fripp and Jakko have done an excellent job, of course the double trio format that Robert Fripp introduced on this album suits 5.1 perfectly with six instruments spread around your room, this is great fun. Of course it’s not just the 5.1 mix we have here but also a brand new stereo mix as well. On the previous albums I had bought in this dual format I had been unable to compare the new stereo mixes as these were the only versions I had, but for the first time with a Crimson album I can compare and contrast the new and old stereo mixes (Isn’t that supposed to be half the fun). I have to say I like this new mix, it wasn’t that I had previously thought there was anything wrong with the previous mix, but all of a sudden the two drums are brought further up in the mix and all of sudden many of the tracks become so much more interesting hearing those two drummers up front, just take a listen to VROOOM to really hear it. The whole album has an even better feel to it, whether it be the grungy guitars of VROOOM, and THRAK, Adrian Belew’s attempt at Alice Cooper style vocals on Dinosaur or his Beatlesesque vocals on Walking On Air, a track that also feels like a throwback to the first album, you do feel that the new mix has improved an already impressive album.

* CD 1 JurassiKc THRAK – an assemblage of material from the recording sessions for the album – placing the listener in the studio with the band as the material was composed and recorded including seven pieces that didn’t make it onto the final album.

* CD2: Max VROOOM – features the long-unavailable mini-album VROOOM, augmented with tracks and edits from the KC Club release: The VROOOM Sessions. All material re-compiled & remastered at DGM.

* CD3: THRAK – is the 2002 remaster of the original album

* CD4: ATTAKcATHRAK (The Vicar’s THRAK) is a sort of sequel to THRaKaTTaK insofar as it’s assembled from live improvs, but is also very different. One of David Singleton’s best pieces of production, the editing process for the new improv album provides more form and function to the material without compromising the spirit of the original improvs. Unlike THRaKaTTaK, which was based on stereo board recordings, this album is newly mixed, in both stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound, from multi-track tapes.

* CD5: THRAK – is the transformative 2015 Jakko Jakszyk/Robert Fripp remix of the original album, described by Robert Fripp as a “Re-imagining of stereo in the early 21st century.”

* CD6: Byte Size THRAK – is a compilation of singles edits, live tracks from promos, a 12″ mix edit – some of which are making their debut appearance on commercially available disc and extracts from writing sessions from the final Nashville rehearsals in 1997.

* CDs7/8: Kcensington THRAK -is a newly mixed release of the band’s London concerts in 1995. Mixed from multi-track tapes by Jakko Jakszyk, and mastered by David Singleton and Robert Fripp (“To make it rock even harder”). Other than video releases, it is also the first live show from this band available in surround sound.

* CDs 9/10: New YorKc THRAK – features a complete setlist from the 1995 run of shows in the city, some material previously released on VROOOM VROOOM (now deleted) and the KC Club release On Broadway. Drawn from multi-track tapes, mixed by Adrian Belew & Ken Latchney. All newly remastered at DGM.

* CDs 11/12: AzteKc THRAK – features a complete setlist from the Mexico City concerts in 1996 – released, in part, on VROOOM VROOOM – mixed from the original multi-tracks by Robert Fripp, R Chris Murphy and David Singleton, and recently remastered at DGM.

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