For the fan, there is an embarrassment of riches to be discovered at King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp’s Discipline Global Mobile Web site, DGMLive.com.
Since late 2005, Fripp and Co. have been making available through the site exclusive live material via downloads of FLAC and mp3 files for fair prices, and included artwork in PDF form as well. Often, these new pieces of historical treasure arrive at a pace I haven’t even attempted to keep up with, but it gives me a rich catalog of material to dig into when bored and in the mood for King Crimson-related material. And that’s what makes this special — the word “related.” You can find not just King Crimson but also Robert Fripp’s solo soundscape shows, even other oddities like a show by Fripp’s weirdo-disco outfit, the League of Gentleman.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Longtime King Crimson member Adrian Belew on the future of the band: Robert Fripp ‘may never want to do it again’]
DGM was actually formed in the 1990s when Fripp, frustrated with the increasingly hostile situation with regular record labels, decided that he needed his own outlet for music. As the decade wore on, he divorced himself more and more from standard label procedures until he was able to produce music the way he wished to, then farm it out to the labels for distribution, if necessary (as in the case of King Crimson’s bigger releases), or release them himself. Since, it’s grown into a multimedia portal.
For other bands, it’s a lesson to be learned — listen to what the fans want, and give it to them at a reasonable price, and they will respond. For the rest of us? A sometimes confusing maze of great moments in Robert Fripp-abilia.
We’re here to help, with a few suggested downloads, culled from years of hanging out at https://www.dgmlive.com/archive.htm:
KING CRIMSON – MONTREAL, AUGUST 4, 1982: Recorded less than a week after the Club 26/Philadelphia download, also available at DGMLive, this is an entirely different beast. Songs stretch out a bit more (“Waiting Man,” which opens the show here, clocks in at nearly 12 minutes compared to its frugal 4-minute studio version) and the band seems a bit more contemplative, rather than furious and full of energy as on the Philadelphia show. Sound quality here is excellent, nearly as good as Club 26.
I also have an interesting personal tie to this show. It was one of my very first (ahem) bootlegs that I picked up many years ago. The sound quality was terrible, and I lamented many times that if it were available in better sound quality, it would be a favorite of mine. Instead, for years, I would hunker down and listen through the warbling, old-cassette sound quality, over the chatting audience and general din of a boomy concert venue to the magic happening on stage — and hoped that one day maybe something special would happen. And then it did.
I must not have been the only one to feel this way about this show, or else why would a professionally recorded and mixed version of it have shown up on DGMLive? The kicker with the download is that the first track is actually the first track off of the bootleg that I own — 27 minutes of sound check in the same terrible quality that I bought years ago, included as a bonus for the fans because it’s just an unusual rarity. When it ends, “Waiting Man” begins as I expect it to, but emerging not out of murky claps, whistles, and talking, but out of silence with Bill Bruford’s delicate slit-drum intro — almost perfectly crystal clear, but distinctly live. It’s moments like these that make me thrilled to be a fan.
KING CRIMSON – LONDON, JULY 1, 1996: A double-trio show — I’ve told you I was a sucker for this era, didn’t I? — that includes some more unusual material for this band (“Neurotica,” “Waiting Man,” and the resurrection of “21st Century Schizoid Man”). There’s also a topsy-turvy approach to the typical concert: The show starts with a barrage of drums in the form of “Conundrum,” and is bookended in the encore with another drums-only piece, “Prism,” which frames the band in a very different light than previous recordings.
In between, it’s another hot show for the group. No two appearances from Crimson are the same as the band has always been known for throwing in new loops to keep things fresh — which is why live material is a must for the fans.
PROJEKCT ONE – JAZZ CAFE, LONDON, DECEMBER 4, 1997: When King Crimson splintered in the late ’90s to experiment with new sounds, it quickly became apparent where the majority of the band was headed: electronic. There was one real holdout to going all-electronic, drummer Bill Bruford, and that’s ironic given his stature as one of the leading proponents of electronic drumming in the ’80s. But in the ’90s, he’d found something calling him back to his first love, jazz, and he wanted to get back to stripped down acoustic jazz drumming — and he just wasn’t interested in pulling out the drum pads again, even for King Crimson.
And so ProjeKct One, with Bruford behind his acoustic kit and Fripp, Warr guitarist Try Gunn, and bassist Tony Levin manning their instruments, convened in London for a four-night stay to bash out new material. It’s heavy, it’s harsh, it’s dissonant and it clangs and clashes… it’s beautifully noisy. It’s also drastically different from the other three ProjeKcts, who found their sounds drifting into gritty electronic noise and wisps of otherwise impossible sound. Here, the sound is derived from the same mostly MIDI-driven guitars of Fripp and Gunn, but the earthy pounding of Bruford’s acoustic kit keeps everything grounded — and, I supposed in Fripp’s eyes, tied to the past, as one can’t but help hearing echoes of the future of the double trio that was never to be in this material.
And that’s what makes this so exciting! Here is where you can hear what would never become of that unwieldy six-piece band, only downsized by two members. Regardless of size, the material pulls from the experience of the double trio, and it’s only because of this DGMLive release that I can see why Fripp chose not to carry on with it, and why a partnership with Bruford is no more.
Pre-DGMLive.com fans will remember Fripp’s live archival releases of King Crimson material under the King Crimson Collector’s Club moniker. At first, this club functioned as a subscription-only deal: the subscribers each paid a chunk of money up front and for about a year would receive a number of exclusive live releases by the band, with the ability to opt out of any particular release if it didn’t appeal to their interests.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Tony Levin goes in-depth on his trio project with David Torn and Alan White, discusses performing on John Lennon's final sessions and contemplates the future for King Crimson.]
What the subscribers received in their mailbox was a top-quality product that had been slaved over to ensure the sound quality was of the highest order possible, even when the original source material was marginal at best (the majority, however, are official band recordings and not bootleg audience recordings). The liner notes were extensive and included relevant photographs when possible. They are true collector’s items, not just in their somewhat limited availability, but in their loving presentation.
As a bonus, I’m also included a pair of suggested Collector’s Club offerings from the Discipline Global Mobile shop:
PROJEKCT THREE – CLUB 27: LIVE IN AUSTIN, TEXAS, MARCH 25, 1999: If you thought you knew ProjeKct Three from the disc provided in the ProjeKcts box, this live disc will surprise you with the monster that P3 was. And if you aren’t familiar with the ProjeKcts … get familiar — King Crimson splintered into smaller instrumental subunits in the late ’90s to explore new territories before reconvening for new studio work, and the results were some of the most adventurous material the band had done in 25 years — and maybe ever.
KING CRIMSON – CLUB31: LIVE AT THE WILTERN, JULY 1, 1995: If I was to tell you, the King Crimson fan, that you have to buy one double trio live recording, it would be this one. Everything about it is perfect, and it should be: it started out life with the intention to be an official release, then got shelved when Fripp got wind of bootleggers selling the hell out of copies of illicit recordings of their 1994 opening nights in Brazil after a nearly 10 year break.
He released B’Boom instead, which is a good live album, but it pales in comparison to the power and intensity presented on this much more seasoned and road-tested band. The interest in B’Boom is hearing how the band is just learning how to read and play off of each other. Here you reap the results of countless hours of incredible musicians having learned each other’s nuances and tendencies, the gift to the listener being a much tighter, but more playful experience.