This is a King Crimson album. Sort of. Maybe. With the accession of Jakko Jakszyk into King Crimson in 2013, all the named members in the band name are now proper members or former members, for better or worse. It even shares much of its musical ancestry and backing with what King Crimson became (compare to their debut; 40 years can be… disruptive). And yet, this ProjeKct is one primarily of semi-ambient soundscape pop music – not unheard of in short bursts on the band’s mainline albums, but given that King Crimson once contributed much to the musical language of the heavy metal that serves as the bread and butter of Invisible Blog, it still takes some getting used to.
The “genesis” of this album probably lies in Robert Fripp’s experiments with recorded tape loops and similar from the 1970s onwards – aka “Frippertronics”. While A Scarcity of Miracles makes limited use of them at best, Fripp’s experience with such give this project a deep reservoir of experience to draw upon.On the other hand, the actual songwriting is driven more by conventional instrumentation, with the ambient guitarscapes used for texture. That much is probably Mel Collins’ contribution; he helped woodwind up King Crimson in its early days, and I’d go as far as to say that his saxophone parts are one of the most important parts of A Scarcity of Miracles. Still, the overall aesthetic owes more to KC’s latest works, so you shouldn’t expect any lizard or island worship here.
I expect that much of your opinion on this album is going to boil down to your opinion on post-1995 King Crimson. Not everyone who reads this blog has the time to listen to their studio albums and miscellany from that era, but it’s something of a mixing pot; an interesting juxtaposition of both the improvisatory frenzy of their ’70s and the more overtly structured 1980s lineup of the band. While the dynamic levels here are usually pretty sedate, there are some intense moments scattered throughout, and they’re arguably strengthened by their rarity. It still makes more sense to judge this album based on its predominantly ambient passages, though, and this is why A Scarcity of Miracles strikes me as a niche product. It requires deeper listening attention to properly appreciate than its accessible facade of vocals and saxophone might lead you to believe. Even then, it’s not particularly dense, although continued listening has lead me to respect this album for its skillful interplay of instrumentation and ability to turn the famed King Crimson free improvisation in a more consonant and coherent direction than usual.
It’s still not an enormously frequent listen for me, though, but if my music tastes were significantly different…
Highlights: “The Price We Pay”, “This House”, “The Other Man”