Production: Spacious professional studio, maintaining good distinction between instruments.
Review: After several years trying to synthesize from many one, and in that finding a clear voice in rock for the complex thinker, King Crimson hit both the formula and the spark of breath that made their content fill it. Red unites years of heavy guitar progressive rock with songs that fit a more classical format, incorporate elements of jazz and rock, but follow the kind of simple wisdom with complex consequences that made folk songs of the British Aisles not just legendary cultural memes but the foundations of much of rock music.
One recurring theme is the negative space of silence, and the dynamic that can be created not just with loudness but with the density of instrumentation; songs build slowly from drumbeats, with vocals and single instruments, adding layers until a raging boil is reached, from which they diverge, often using the broken rhythms of jazz to change tempo and let the saxophone take a chaotic pace of lead. Some songs, like the epic "Starless," imitate and expound upon classical forms, such as the sonata, adapted to the more repetitive environment of rock music.
If given a name, however, the guitar instrumentation of Robert Fripp would not be classical but an attempt, as alluded by Paul Ledney of Profanatica, to find an ur-voice for music; it is abstract music, but it is universalist in the sense that natural selection and esoteric religion are; it attempts to become the logical building block before its ancestors. Diatonic arpeggiated patterns, minor scale exploration, and use of harmony in a topography and not staggered intensity of linear pattern mark his composition, and with that clarity he is able to create space not just with silence but with perspective, also using key changes to silhouette earlier developments in phrase.
As a contribution to the culture of rock, King Crimson moved retrograde to the tendency to dumb down the medium into image and trivial yet novel variations on accepted form, and with Red the band reached a climax, fusing simplicity with a need for subliminal elegance and a finding a transcendental recognition of the relative balance between structure and content, fulfilling the prophetic words of Ornette Coleman: "The pattern for a tune, for instance, will be forgotten and the tune itself will be the pattern." With King Crimson, music is a pattern language for the experience of life, and song structure is the means through which it expresses change and through that, learning from life.
This sense of reaching produces the type of narrative pattern, where a change in an evolving phrase like a sigil of learning in the course of a journey conveys the listener from one state of mind through epiphanies to another as a poem draws us between perception and conclusion, that underlies neoclassical heavy metal, Kraftwerk-style ambient music and modern Wagner-inspired classical alike. In this King Crimson find the pattern behind music as a form of culture, and brought popular music back into a cultural context of expressing the eternal and not the temporal, contextless and momentarily exciting.