The Art of King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King

King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King

King Crim­son exploded right out of the gate in Octo­ber 1969 with In the Court of the Crim­son King, one of the few debut albums to become an instant clas­sic. Pop­u­lar music his­tory is lit­tered with exam­ples of acts that didn’t peak in artis­tic and/or com­mer­cial terms until well into their record­ing careers. Artists as diverse as Gen­e­sis, Brian Eno, and Radio­head searched for their voices until their third albums, and even the sainted Bea­t­les didn’t go from merely excel­lent to sub­lime until Rub­ber Soul, their sixth. But In the Court of the Crim­son King was the com­plete pack­age, and remains sig­nif­i­cant and influ­en­tial to this day in both musi­cal and visual terms. Eric Tamm describes the album’s impact upon the music scene as a sort of cos­mic big bang that pro­duced a num­ber of splin­ter genres:

In ret­ro­spect, what­ever one felt about this music, the sem­i­nal nature of the album can­not be denied: the var­ie­gated yet cohe­sive In the Court of the Crim­son King helped launch, for bet­ter or for worse, not one but sev­eral musi­cal move­ments, among them heavy metal, jazz-rock fusion, and pro­gres­sive rock. As Charley Waters, writ­ing for the Rolling Store Record Guide, was to put it some years later, the album “helped shape a set of baroque stan­dards for art-rock.“
– Eric Tamm, Robert Fripp: From King Crim­son to Gui­tar Craft, page 43

What Pete Townshend Thinks about King Crimson

Its musi­cal influ­ence is only part of the story. The album The Who’s Pete Town­shend famously called “an uncanny mas­ter­piece” also boasts a sin­gu­larly unique cover that still reg­u­larly appears on best-of album cover lists. It ranked #62 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Great­est Album Cov­ers in 1991, #9 on MusicRadar’s The 50 Great­est Album Cov­ers of All Time, and #50 on Gigwise’s Top 50 Great­est Album Cov­ers of All Time. It was selected for the book The Story of Island Records: Keep on Run­ning, cel­e­brat­ing the label’s 50th Anniver­sary (with­out per­mis­sion, as Robert Fripp has detailed in his online diary). Even many of its var­i­ous LP labels from dif­fer­ent edi­tions are repro­duced in the book Labelkunde Vinyl by Frank Won­neberg, also seen in Fripp’s diary.

Praise for the cover is often met by equally oppos­ing deri­sion. No less than two such back­handed com­pli­ments came from The A.V. Club, which placed In the Court of the Crim­son King on its lists of 18 Par­tic­u­larly Ridicu­lous Prog-Rock Album Cov­ers, and Great Albums with Ter­ri­ble Art. The lat­ter described “that dis­torted, scream­ing face in nau­se­at­ing blues and pinks” as “headache-inducing”.

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Why I Unfriended You on Facebook (An Open Letter)

Facebook unfriend


Twenty-six peo­ple were shot to death yes­ter­day at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in New­town, Con­necti­cut, includ­ing 20 children.

In a sep­a­rate but related fact, you are the first Face­book friend I’ve ever unfriended. Or is that “de-friended”, or per­haps “ex-friended”? Regard­less, I’d like to briefly explain why.

I was social net­work­ing skep­tic until I joined Face­book in 2008. I still run hot and cold on the site; some­times absent for months, other times engag­ing daily with friends about things both impor­tant (wed­dings, elec­tions, hur­ri­canes) and triv­ial (a movie I dug, what I had for lunch, pho­tos of my cats).

But it frankly gives me warm fuzzies to think that I have Face­book friends from around the world, of all ages, races, polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tions, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions… basi­cally every way that human beings can be dif­fer­ent from each other. Some­times I see posts I dis­agree with, just as at least some of my own have prob­a­bly irri­tated others.

The recent Amer­i­can elec­tion, for instance, engen­dered a huge amount of ran­cor on social net­works. Friends and fam­ily accused each other of being unpa­tri­otic for sup­port­ing dif­fer­ent can­di­dates. I myself am cer­tainly not inno­cent from point­edly post­ing or “lik­ing” arti­cles that reflect my own views, nor do I expect oth­ers to refrain. But as a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple, I have never blocked or unfriended anyone.

You are the first, and I hope, the last. Here’s why. Con­tinue read­ing

Crash Pop Bang Snap: The Art of King Crimson’s THRAK

King Crimson THRAK

King Crimson’s eleventh stu­dio album THRAK veered away from their prior discog­ra­phy in more ways than merely how it sounded. The band’s rad­i­cal new form and sound was fit­tingly cap­tured and deliv­ered in a very dif­fer­ent pack­age than any­thing that had come before; not only were the fash­ions and times very dif­fer­ent than their last out­ing circa 1984, but even the for­mats had changed. The 1980s band employed min­i­mal­ist design on the larger can­vas of the LP record, replaced in the 90s by dense tex­tures on tiny CD inserts.

Eric Tamm pub­lished his book Robert Fripp: From King Crim­son to Gui­tar Craft in 1990, when King Crim­son appeared for all intents and pur­poses defunct. He nev­er­the­less cor­rectly nailed its cycli­cal nature:

“King Crim­son had always been a way of doing things, and indeed with the new band [King Crim­son 1981–84] the his­tor­i­cal King Crim­son pat­tern played itself out once more: a short period of intense col­lec­tive cre­ativ­ity result­ing in a dynamic new musi­cal style, fol­lowed by a decline into some­what man­nered refine­ments and rep­e­ti­tions of orig­i­nal insights and a frag­men­ta­tion of group iden­tity due to the indi­vid­ual cre­ative lean­ings of the musi­cians.“
– Eric Tamm, Robert Fripp: From King Crim­son to Gui­tar Craft, page 9

Look­ing back from the point of view of 1990, the major phases of the King Crim­son life­cy­cle did indeed fall into a tril­ogy of trilo­gies: roughly three albums per three years (with vary­ing gaps of inac­tiv­ity in-between). After their sin­gu­lar debut in 1969, this pat­tern fits the bumpy tran­si­tion period of 1970–71, the adven­tur­ous jazz rock fusion period of 1973–74, and the new wave / math rock curve­ball of 1981–84. The THRAK era is where this orga­ni­za­tional scheme falls apart. In stark con­trast, this phase spanned 1994–96 but pro­duced only one stu­dio album. Con­tinue read­ing

The Three Hour Avalanche: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas Movie Poster


Books are books, and movies are movies. I usu­ally don’t want or expect any adap­ta­tion to copy its source — in fact, it’s usu­ally in everyone’s best inter­ests for a deriv­a­tive work to strive to be its own thing, and not… well, deriv­a­tive. But Tom Tyk­wer and Lana & Larry Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas turned out to be an aston­ish­ingly faith­ful adap­ta­tion of David Mitchell’s novel. For a book so sprawl­ing and com­monly deemed unadapt­able, I fully expected more char­ac­ters and inci­dent to have been nec­es­sar­ily jet­ti­soned. But almost every­thing is there, with most of the screen­writ­ers’ addi­tions com­ing in the form of struc­tural changes rather than material.

Being so faith­ful to this par­tic­u­lar book comes with a poten­tial down­side. One of the great­est plea­sures to be had in the novel is its wide range of gen­res and tones. Sequences include a pulpy 70s thriller, a light-hearted old folks farce, a sci-fi dystopia, and a postapoc­a­lyp­tic waste­land. Each is famil­iar to a degree, but only inso­far as Mitchell employs known genre tropes to his own ends. Each is writ­ten in a dif­fer­ent voice, rang­ing from archaic his­tor­i­cal ver­nac­u­lar to imag­i­nary frac­tured and devolved lan­guages of the far future.

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King Crimson Album Art: In the Wake of Poseidon

King Crimson In the Wake of Poseidon

The most com­mon cri­tique levied against King Crimson’s In the Wake of Posei­don is that it is a mere retread of ground already bro­ken by their leg­endary debut album In the Court of the Crim­son King. This “more of the same” charge applies to the entire pack­age; the com­po­si­tion, instru­men­ta­tion, musi­cal styles, and nomen­cla­ture all fit the gen­eral tem­plate of its pre­de­ces­sor, and the album art con­tin­ued the motif of fan­tas­ti­cal portraiture.

I hadn’t been look­ing for­ward to writ­ing this chap­ter in my visual his­tory of King Crim­son. Musi­cally speak­ing, In the Wake of Posei­don is not my least favorite King Crim­son album (for the record: Lizard, fol­lowed hotly by Earth­bound), but it is the one about which I have the most dif­fi­culty try­ing to find some­thing inter­est­ing to say. This may sound like heresy, but I don’t love In the Court of the Crim­son King either, but I value and appre­ci­ate it from a his­toric point of view. So it’s very dif­fi­cult for me to work up enthu­si­asm to lis­ten to or write about an album that sounds to me like a do-over. Coin­ci­den­tally or not, the 2010 40th Anniver­sary Edi­tion reis­sue is one of the few in the ongo­ing series not to fea­ture a liner note essay by Robert Fripp, so per­haps he didn’t know what to say either.

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Album Cover Case Study: Brian Eno’s Music for Films

Brian Eno Music for Films

When not think­ing out loud about movies, music, and design here at The Dork Report, I’m a designer in real life. As part of a recent over­haul of my online port­fo­lio, I’ve recently added a new series of case stud­ies detail­ing the process and think­ing behind a few per­sonal projects. First up is a pre­sen­ta­tion of my entry for a design con­test run by the blog Venus Febricu­losa, to imag­ine an imag­i­nary cover for Brian Eno’s 1978 album Music for Films.

Check out the excel­lent win­ners on Venus Febricu­losa, and read about my entry on my port­fo­lio site.

King Crimson Album Art: The ConstruKction of Light

King Crimson The ConstruKction of Light

The Con­struKc­tion of Light is the sound of King Crim­son forcibly break­ing through exactly the kind of impasse that had caused pre­vi­ous incar­na­tions of the band to break up.

Crim­son found itself in a cre­ative impasse after the lengthy tours sup­port­ing the 1995 album THRAK, dur­ing which the band cir­cled the globe repeat­ing basi­cally the same reper­toire. Some bands pro­duce their most inter­est­ing albums while still on tour pro­mot­ing the pre­vi­ous one (such as R.E.M.‘s New Adven­tures in Hi-Fi and U2’s Zooropa), but that appar­ently wasn’t an option for the ungainly sex­tet that was Crim­son circa 1995–96. Writ­ing rehearsals in 1997 were deemed a fail­ure (although you may judge for your­self as excerpts were since made avail­able on a mail-order-only album called Nashville Rehearsals).

That’s when things got interesting.

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King Crimson Album Art: Three of a Perfect Pair

King Crimson Three of a Perfect Pair

King Crim­son first exploded on the scene in 1969 as a star­tlingly sophis­ti­cated, tight, and orig­i­nal band. Not only did their debut album In the Court of the Crim­son King show­case a set of solid mate­r­ial, it was per­fectly pack­aged in an instantly iconic sleeve. But the band’s grace period did not last long, and the next few years of their exis­tence were messy and chaotic. A tril­ogy of follow-up albums (In the Wake of Posei­don, Lizard, and Islands) all failed (in inter­est­ingly dif­fer­ent ways) to live up to poten­tial, as the band was beset by con­stant lineup changes and cre­ative com­pro­mises. But Crim­son would enjoy many fur­ther oppor­tu­ni­ties to seal their leg­end, com­plet­ing two more trilo­gies between 1973–74 and 1981–84, with still more resur­gences to come in the nineties and oughties. The sec­ond great tril­ogy came to a close in March 1984 with Three of a Per­fect Pair.

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King Crimson Album Art: Lizard

King Crimson Lizard

The extrav­a­gantly ornate King Crim­son album Lizard appeared in Decem­ber 1970, clad in an equally intri­cate gate­fold sleeve. Many Crim­son albums remain points of con­tention among crit­ics and fans (for instance, Islands is some­times over­looked, and a cer­tain vin­tage of fans never warmed to any­thing after Dis­ci­pline). But no Crim­son album has been as last­ingly con­tro­ver­sial and divi­sive as Lizard. Then and now, it con­founds almost every­one that has heard it, even its own co-creator Robert Fripp.

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Favicon & Apple Touch Icon Adobe Fireworks Template

Favicon and Apple Touch Icon Template for Adobe Fireworks

Once upon a time, web design­ers & devel­op­ers had it easy when it came to the ven­er­a­ble fav­i­con. Our tiny .ico files served a much greater pur­pose than their mea­ger 16x16 square pix­els would sug­gest. These hum­ble graph­ics allowed us to pop­u­late the sta­tus bars, tabs, and book­marks of our vis­i­tors’ browsers with our emblems. They were a test of our abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate our brands in a strictly lim­ited num­ber of pixels.

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