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discover: King Crimson

By Anthony Garone

Some of the founders of progressive rock. And terrified audiences.

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Who is King Crimson?

King Crimson are a band that has been making influential weird music since 1968. They have been through several member lineups with one consistent member keeping the group’s mission alive all these years: Robert Fripp.

KC have been labeled as progressive rock, progressive metal, experimental, psychedelic metal, and more, but they are not beholden to a genre or a style. Rather, they have done more to trailblaze new territory and explore new genres than any other band I can think of.

What makes them weird?

In late 2014, they began performing in their final lineup, which consists of three drummers, two guitarists, a bassist, and a woodwind player. I saw their show in Los Angeles and was very impressed, though the price of my front-row ticket may have been the most impressive part of the show!

I admire KC greatly because of their willingness to unabashedly experiment and write risky, interesting music. They have recorded and toured in several configurations–including a double trio (two drummers, two guitarists, two bassists). Their use of electronic instrumentation and sound crafting has always been forward-thinking. They frequently feature two instruments playing simultaneously in different time signatures or trading notes in a single melody. Each of their albums features some new, unique idea to convey their musical ideas.

Their most notable and successful lineup included:

Oh, and did I mention virtuosity? Robert Fripp is one of the greatest guitarists alive today. I have been trying for 20 years to play his song “Fracture” and I still can’t do it. Adrian Belew is one of the most innovative rock guitarists of his time. Bill Bruford has influenced so many important drummers in so many genres. Tony Levin has a discography of hundreds of albums. These guys are a supergroup powerhouse of music.

Proof is in the Pudding

I practically grew up watching this 90-minute KC concert on a VHS copy my father had recorded on MTV. (He claimed it’s the first live concert MTV ever aired, but I think it was actually the band Asia who had that privilege.)

What to listen to

KC has more musical releases than I can reasonably list, but I particularly enjoy their studio releases. Notably:

What is King Crimson?

Mr. Fripp has talked quite a bit about KC on his blog/diary. He refers to KC more like a movement, or an experience, in which he participates and doesn’t lead in any particular way. It’s never been the kind of thing that was meant to sell records, though such a thing is required for the survival of the band. It’s never been the kind of thing that tried to be popular or trendy. It’s never been concerned about pleasing professional music reviewers. It’s what happens when a particular group of individuals gets together and explores new and interesting musical ideas.

Ideally, that’s what I’d love my own music to mean.

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