Most of the THRAK-era releases shared a visual aesthetic (mostly suppled by the Bill Smith Studio) and an onomatopoetic naming convention (such as VROOOM, B’BOOM, etc.). For the ProjeKcts series, however, there was little continuity in the album art and design. Some sported the now-familiar P.J. Crook paintings, and others had minimalist graphical designs more in keeping with the 1980s albums Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair. In terms of branding and marketing, the sole sign of unity among these disparate endeavors was the use of camelCase (the insertion of a capitalized letter into a compound word, like “iPhone”) and the deliberate misspelling of certain words to insert the letter K, a conceit not seen since the track “Cirkus” from Lizard (almost 30 years prior).
The elaborate, extensive ProjeKct experiment led to a pared-down quartet and the album The ConstruKction of Light, released in May 2000 on compact disc format only.
Artist Ionnis Vasilopoulo (billed as simply “Ioannis”) provided the digital art, with design by Alan Chappell. Within the King Crimson family, Ionnis had previously created several California Guitar Trio and Trey Gunn sleeves including The Third Star (1996) and The Joy of Molybdenum (2000), and was also responsible for Heaven and Earth, a companion album to The ConstruKction of Light recorded in parallel by King Crimson under the guise ProjeKct X. Most of these sleeves were atypical of Ionnis’ more fantasy-based work for artists such as Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, and The Allman Brothers Band. These ornate sleeves are certainly more in keeping with the prog rock tradition, making him an odd choice indeed for a band that had been trying to shake that association off for years. Ionnis acknowledged as much in a profile by the New Haven Register, albeit in a manner that pays a backhanded complement to the member that most disliked his initial submission: “For the new King Crimson CD cover, Ioannis and the band agreed to a more contemporary monochromatic design, one better reflective of the current tastes of the band’s quirky lead guitarist, Robert Fripp.”
The earlier version of the album cover seen above is hardly maximalist or overly ornate, but it’s interesting that the final cover is the result of a series of extractions and simplifications. The vertical motion blur effect on the text is greatly reduced, the small glyph above the album title is removed, and two images are reduced to one. The glyph is difficult to discern but appears to resemble a mandala. If so, that would be in line with the sacred art traditions that informed many previous King Crimson covers, especially Lizard, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, and Three of a Perfect Pair. It’s also possible there’s a connection with the type of Celtic knotwork that adorned Discipline, but it’s difficult to say without being able to view a clearer image.
“I came up with the young man hiding his face and then opening his fingers to peek in the darkness. The way a child would if he was scared, or someone grieving. It was ambiguous enough so you could interpret it in all sorts of ways.“
– Ionnis, In the Court of King Crimson, page 314
This original concept was reportedly vetoed by Robert Fripp. Trey Gunn provided the new source image, a digital manipulation of a photograph taken during the recording sessions. The final graphic is so drastically manipulated that Gunn is no longer sure what the original image was (Smith, pages 295–296).
Looked at closely, the final graphic evokes the nebula image on the album Islands and even, to a degree, Peter Sinfield’s watercolor painting on the inner gatefold to In the Wake of Poseidon, or Dave Wade’s marbling on that of Lizard. This astronomical imagery is related to Fripp’s phrase “the construction of light,” derived from his personal study of J.G. Bennett and the mystic G.I. Gurdjieff (Smith, page 299). Another visual motif associated with Bennett is the Celtic knot graphic that adorned the 1981 album Discipline.
The final design retains the general color scheme and typography. In my opinion, the type treatment dates this particular album sleeve to a particular era more than almost any other Crimson album. The extremely widely-tracked condensed font, coupled with excessive vertical motion blur, reeks of Photoshop.
Ionnis also designed the tour program, which included a great deal of additional artwork not used in the CD package. However, the original image of the young man covering his eyes does not appear.
The ensuing tour was documented with a mammoth three-disc live album Heavy ConstruKction released in November 2000. A single P.J. Crook painting is stretched pretty thinly across the entire package, appearing in full on the booklet front cover, and re-purposed multiple times across the jewel box inlay and booklet back cover. The album is unfortunately packaged in an bulky double jewel case, a format that had already gone out of fashion in 2000.
Also unfortunately, the third disc concludes with a recording of an ugly incident in which a fan disrupted a show with flash photos and had his camera confiscated by security. Ending the album with several minutes of an audience booing is, to say the least, something of a down note and makes the album a rather dismal listening experience. Instead of being a record of the tour’s best moments, it preserved the worst for posterity.
If Heavy ConstruKction didn’t provide enough live Crimson from this period, an additional live EP titled Level Five was released in November 2001. It was recorded earlier that year, after anything that appeared on Heavy ConstruKction. It included material from The ConstruKction of Light, pieces originally explored by various ProjeKcts, and early versions of pieces that would appear on the 2003 album The Power to Believe. The cover painting by P.J. Crook of a figure in a gas mask prefigures the apocalyptic imagery that would appear on their next and final studio album The Power to Believe. As such, Level Five serves as a kind of bridge between Crimson’s penultimate and ultimate albums.
THE CONSTRUKCTION OF LIGHT ART & DESIGN CREDITS:
- Art Direction: Ioannis for Vivid Images Worldwide
- Digital Art: Ioannis (thanks to Bob Grober)
- Design: Alan Chappell for Vivid Images Worldwide & Trey Gunn
- Photography & Video Images: Trey Gunn
HEAVY CONSTRUKCTION ART & DESIGN CREDITS:
- Artwork from a painting by P.J. Crook
- Photography and Video Images: BootlegTV Crew, Trey Gunn
- Photograph of KC: Michael Wilson
- Design: Hugh O’Donnell
LEVEL FIVE ART & DESIGN CREDITS:
- Cover artwork from paintings by P.J. Crook
- Photography: Bill Munyon
- Design: High O’Donnell
- Artist Ionnis Vasilopoulo’s official site: www.dangerousage.com
- An interview with Ionnis by Classic Rock Revisited
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