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King Crimson at Theatre St-Denis

John Kelman By

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"We are three very different drummers with three very different sounding drum sets," Harrison continued. "Plus Bill plays keyboards, and there were a lot of songs that required keyboards. We've all got a lot of electronic stuff; Pat has a lot more of it, as well as the metallic industrial stuff, from the Jamie Muir kind of approach, which is very interesting.

"So, if and when I try to compose something for three drums," Harrison continued, "I just record myself three times, obviously being mindful of how large or small a drum set each of them has: Bill has a quite small drum set. so I obviously can't write something that requires a whole lot of toms for example, or a lot of cymbals. What's happened in the past with the drum pieces is I actually filmed myself performing all the parts and then sent them to Pat and Bill. I know Pat is not a traditionally schooled musician who can read music, but even if I'd written out the parts it's actually easier to watch someone playing them...and the same for Bill.

"So I would send out these little films of ideas that I've got and they would come to my house," concluded Harrison. "We had three drum kits and we just tried things—things on the record, but where we would try moving parts or changing things. It's not the kind of rehearsal that any other musician or any other kind of person wants to be in the same room with [laughs], so there's always a rehearsal periods with just the drummers. There are other rehearsal periods: Jakko and Robert working out very detailed guitar parts; sometimes they're worked out better with Mel, Tony and Robert at Jakko's house and the three drummers at my house because we can multitrack record as well."

One of the other impressive aspects to watching the new Crim is how the two guitarists divvy up their parts. Like the drummers, there are times when Jakszyk and Fripp pass parts off to one another; other times they play in full unison; and still other times where they engage in the kind of staggered, interlocking and at-times Gamelan-like approach that defined '80s Crim and, to a certain extent, the Crimson of 2000's The ConstruKction of Light, from which the first part of the title track has been adapted to include Collins' otherworldly flute and more grounded saxophone work.

Some of the guitar arrangements were predicated on Fripp's unconventional New Standard Tuning—which approximates all-fifths tuning (beginning with a low C on the sixth string, with the exception of the first string, tuned a minor third above the second string that's tuned to an E)—and which intrinsically makes certain standard tuning parts impossible to play. "That's particularly true with some of the classic Crimson material," explained Jakszyk. "For example, with 'In the Court of the Crimson King,' there's the need to play harmonics and then two notes a semitone part, and Robert just can't do that with his tuning. In the middle of 'Starless,' we pass that one [a lengthy, relentlessly building solo with a remarkably simple concept] off between us because it's the same note played on two consecutive strings, so there's only so many places on the neck that you can actually access them. So I have to start playing them and when it gets higher up the neck Robert can take over. But also, there are parts where we recreate overdubs. And there are parts where I really think, 'I should play this like me,' and then there are other places where I think I have to be truer to the original song, so perhaps I double a line with Robert or harmonize with him..."

While there were plenty of arranged parts, it was not necessarily obvious just how open-ended some of the music was with the new Crim. "Easy Money," for example, may have had defined opening and closing sections, but in the middle, there was absolutely no idea where it would go; night to night, everything was up for grabs. While Collins suggested that "when you play the same material night after night it can start to cement itself, which means that some nights tend to be similar," he also clarified that on "other nights it goes off in a completely different direction." Certainly the middle section in the first of Montréal's two nights went places neither the original nor any of the versions heard on the various box sets collecting live shows from 1972-74 ever went: 2012's Larks Tongues in Aspic, 2013's The Road to Red and 2014's Starless boxes, not to mention the one that started it all, 1992's four-disc The Great Deceiver box set. The second evening it was a little truer to form, but still far from the same.

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