King Crimson: Islands
Music •••½ DVD-Audio Mix •••••Extras •••••
Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson's multichannel mix of Islands detangles some of their album In the Wake of Poseidon's more difficult material. The rhythm section and the horns of "Sailor's Tale," while holding fast to the same speeding train, may seem to be operating on different tracks, but the mix helps to make sense of this cunning disjunction. Then comes Fripp's stunning solo: fierce avant-garde flailing, with his initial strokes coming from the front and the guitar's gunfire-like report following in the rear.
On "The Letters," delicately plucked guitar strings and bassist Boz Burrell's courtly vocal yield to a disturbing blast of saxes and drums, then a few seconds of sheer noise, whirling clockwise - another example of Crimson's jolting dynamics and Wilson's magnificent placement of them in the surround field. At the other sonic extreme is the album's lovely title track, where Burrell's voice is initially isolated in the center channel (as if confined on an island) before moving to the four outer speakers - a neat inversion. Various instruments are given space and prominence in the mix to state their piece. The lengthy cornet solo that closes the song, positioned in the rear, is tasteful and unhurried, a high point on an album whose revision in surround has given me newfound appreciation.
Oh, and the extras: You'll need to block off some time on a desert island just to digest them all, including "Islands: The Alternate Album" (assembled from different takes, edits, and mixes), "Routes to Islands" (rehearsals, rough mixes, and live tracks), and "Assorted Ladies" (various takes of "Formentera Lady" and "Ladies of the Road"). It's a King Crimson fan's dream.