Various Artists - "Schizoid Dimension: A Tribute To King Crimson"
(Purple Pyramid 1997, CLP 0123-2)
From Aural Innovations #3 (July 1998)
I know, King Crimson isn't a spacerock band. But their influence on all rock music is undeniable, and contributions by several space bands makes this collection of special interest to Aural Innovations readers.
There are two types of tribute discs. One has bands who simply cover the songs they are paying tribute to and leave the listener wondering why he/she didn't just play the original in the first place. On the other, we hear bands taking great songs and attempting to make them their own. They play the songs marked with their own signature sound, and sometimes even adventurously reinterpret the originals. Schizoid Dimension has some of both, as well as interesting tracks that fall somewhere in between. First the good stuff:
Controlled Bleeding's cover of "Talking Drum" maintains the repeating bass/drum line that is a hallmark of the original. Synth washes sound like an ocean pounding the shore while the guitar slowly solos in a not-quite-Fripp style. Chrome's "Moonchild" falls into the thumbs up category probably because this is the last song I would have expected such a hard-edged band to choose. An interesting, if not mind-blowing rendition. On Melting Euphoria's "Lark's Tongues In Aspic: Part I" the band retains the energy of the original but adds some cool spaced out guitar parts. The cosmic guitars combine with a frantic, driving percussion beat to make this more of what I expect a "cover" tune to sound like.
Anyone who has heard "Life On Earth" will agree that early jazzy King Crimson is right up Alien Planetscapes' alley. On their cover of "A Sailor's Tale", sax and guitar duel manically while the bass keeps an expresso sipping, beat generation pace. The percussion slams away madly with a gorgeous orchestral wall of synth in the background. Architectural Metaphor chose "Cirkus", a song that Deb Young's haunting vocals are perfect for. The band adds a spaced out symphonic atmosphere to the song with choral keys, and Greg Kozlowski's guitar effects providing the intensity. And Pressurehed's "21st Century Schizoid Man" is a swirling, metallic rendition of this classic tune. The madly tripping synths make this one of the spaciest on the disc, though it's also one of the most kick-ass jam rockin' contributions as well. These three were definitely my favorites.
Two others that I thought were at least good efforts were by Astralasia and Xcranium. Astralasia's "I Talk To The Wind" retains the dreaminess of the original, but is contrasted by abruptly choppy electronic percussion that was simultaneously interesting and annoying. Xcranium's "Cat Food" was a good effort at putting their own stamp on the song. The jazziness of the original is gone, but this is a steady paced rocker with some interesting keyboard work and sound, sometimes bordering on psychedelia.
Much less exciting are contributions by David Cross, Brand X, Spirits Burning, and Solid Space. Cross covers "Exiles" and listening to the version on King Crimson's recent Nightwatch release its clear that he can't even touch live 70's Crimson for dreamy darkness and intensity. Brand X and Spirits Burning both cover "Red". Why two versions? "Red" is great roof-caving metal, but is really just a riff tune. Hardly Crimson's most exciting song. And indeed both bands play it true to the original. I'm sorry but there are plenty of other great candidate songs out there.
In the final tally the good stuff outweighs the boring on this collection. I must confess I'm not one for tribute discs, but I couldn't resist checking this one out and definitely found it to be better than most. Certainly worthwhile for the contributions by some of the best of the current U.S. space bands.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz