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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Scarcity Of Miracles Jakszyk Fripp And Collins

Jakszyk, Fripp & Collins
A Scarcity Of Miracles

With King Crimson on hold since their live reunion of 2008, this instalment of the ProjeKct series - in which members break down into smaller research and development units - has caused surprise in some circles by releasing an album of finely crafted mid-paced songs rather than the fast-moving, genre-blurring instrumentals that characterised previous outings.

Yet the ProjeKct experiments weren’t ever about a given style but more to do with evolving beyond a creative impasse. The catalysing force this time is guitarist / vocalist, Jakko Jakszyk (the only non-Crimson member present here), whose extrapolations of the initial improvised guitar duets with Fripp into ornate full-scale songs is a stunning achievement.

Whilst Fripp is hailed for his acerbic, angular playing whether with King Crimson or via his ‘wild card’ appearances with Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Brian Eno et al, there’s always been a yearning streak in his work which he gives full rein throughout. His clean, sparse lines carve a heartbreaking melodicism and aching melancholy on the title track and undulating waves of The Price We Pay. As ever, Fripp’s incisive fretwork is devastatingly passionate. 

Mel Collins, playing with Fripp for the first time since 1974‘s Red, was always every bit the equal of the feted guitarist. Here he focusses on concise but telling sax commentaries rather than any obvious soloing. Across the rumbling grooves of Secrets, he turns in mocking soliloquies and some spectacular soaring choruses that nag and push at the prowling gravity of bassist Tony Levin and drummer, Gavin Harrison.

The sombre mood hanging over the album is matched by a terse sense of restraint which only breaks cover for the explosive paranoia of The Other Man and the discursive atonalities of The Light Of Day which closes the album. An especially bleak Fripp/Jakszyk improvisation is disconsolately adorned by multi-tracked voices and gouging scrawls of acidic sax. It’s dark and powerful stuff.

A Scarcity Of Miracles is a branching of the Crimson family tree with the co-option of an external contributor is as unprecedented as it is unexpected. Whether it continues to grow further is anyone’s guess. On the basis of what’s here, let’s hope it does. 


Halloway said...

What I found most surprising about this album was the strength of Jakko's contributions. The small amount of previous material of his that I had heard (mainly the 90s collaboration with Jansen, Barbieri and Karn) I found to be rather insipid. Yet his songs and particularly his voice on this album are nothing short of superb. I will be disappointed if JFC(HL) don't go on to make more albums.

Sid Smith said...

Hi there - his is a decisive contribution. Glad you enjoyed it!

Sid Smith said...

Sorry - meant to say that if you liked JJ's work here, you might be interested in checking out his solo abum, The Bruised Romantic Glee Club.

robert fripp said...

Sid writes: Mel Collins... was always every bit the equal of the feted guitarist.

Actually, Mel was always well ahead of the guitarist, who only drew level when at his very best.

Sid Smith said...

Hello Robert,
ee's the guv'nor so 'ee is!

Russell said...

Definitely it is Mel's contribution that left this listener slack-jawed. Right from his first entry, so recognisable in tone and form - it sounds like he just took a few minutes' break after Red before recording this.

Sid Smith said...

Hi there Russell, the bit that baffles me in some of the commentary on the album are the references to Kenny G. This makes me wonder a) if they've heard Kenny G and b)listened to what Mel is doing in some of the moments on this record. Still, beauty is in the ear of the beholder, I guess.

theloniusfunk said...

I quite like this. I have been reading some of the detractors comments in various fora and the irony is not lost on me that they seem wholly unable to perceive the complex flavor of this album.

Mel Collins doesn't sound like "Kenny G" but like Wayne Shorter mostly (he does have a few phrases here and there which almost fall into tepid, but never 'smooth jazz' territory), and the pastoral qualities that some folks seem to mistake for Sting-like pure pop are way too developed and layered for such a simplistic surface comparison.

While I would have liked a few more muscular numbers, I would have liked them as an addition, not as a replacement for anything already here (if only because when Jakko and Harrison go full throttle, as in "Perfect Kiss" or "No One Left to Lie To" its so damn fun).

Jakko seems to be getting short-shrift because he isn't trying sufficiently to ape off kilter Belewisms. This is a stupid position to attach to. Jakko is one of a handful of people I had always wanted to see work with Fripp directly (others being Roland Orzabal, Sussan Deyhim and Vernon Reid) and I find the results quite rewarding.

Sid Smith said...

Hello Thelonius, thanks for stopping by. Not all of the album works, but then aside from a very select few, I'd say the same thing about most records these days.

My feeling is that it's a slow-burner and so some of the folks who currently don't like it will eventually get on board.

But of course, plenty won't and that's absolutely fine - there's no law which says folks have to like everything with the RF / KC name on it.

In respect of the muscular thing you mention I agree and were these songs ever performed live then I think there'd be some adjustments to take into account the different dynamics required over the course of a gig.

Like you, I find the results of this album to be rewarding, with plenty of layers and small things of beauty tucked away to be uncovered in time.

sleepwalkers said...

I believe that it should be pointed out how a few of the alternate mixes available on the DVD version are actually more 'Crimsonesque' than those on the official version:
Secrets includes a lot more guitar, which vaguely resembles the interlocking style we are familiar with... plus Collins puts the focus on the alto - which is reminiscent of some of his best 'snarling' sax from a bygone era.
The Other Man also includes more guitar which, in my opinion, helps to bring the other instruments together a little better.
The Light Of Day is so much more interesting with Gavin Harrison's drums helping to make the entire piece gel. Another strong element of this alternate track is that Collins opts to perform on flute rather than the soprano sax.

For me personally, by simply switching these particular alternate mixes leads me to conclude that I am basically listening to the current Crimson lineup.


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