We sadly have come to the final two releases in the 40th Anniversary Series of King Crimson albums. This 1 CD + 1 DVD-A edition of their 2000 album ReconstruKction of Light is the fourteenth release to receive the deluxe edition with 5.1 surround sound mixes. However this version differs quite a bit from the previous ones, featuring a "re-imagined" edition of the album with all drums replaced by Pat Mastelotto followed by the entire album remixed by Don Gunn to integrate these changes, thus the updated name from its original “The ConstruKction of Light.” For high resolution and surround enthusiasts, the DVD-A features new mixes both in stereo audio and lossless 5.1 surround sound, the later mixed by David Singleton. Plus, as a bonus, the complete ProjeKct X album “Heaven & Earth” is included! This edition follows the form factor of the earlier releases and is presented in a double digipak format inside a slipcase.
Please note that serious collectors may want to consider picking up the comprehensive Heaven and Earth box set, which contains 24 discs in a limited-edition box set chronicling King Crimson from 1997 to 2008. This set contains 18 CDs of studio & live material from 1997 to 2008, including 3 CDs featuring a re-imagining of The ConstruKction of Light, an extended stereo mix of The Power to Believe and the Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With and Level 5 mini albums. There are 3 Blu-ray and 2 DVD-Audio discs of studio and live material, plus another Blu-ray of concert material which contains video. I mention this lavish set since it contains The ReconstruKction of Light, with the new stereo and 5.1 mixes as described above. Also, there is an idealized set list drawn from the NY run of gigs from KC's 2008 Tour, containing approximately 10 hours of audio/video tour footage. Plus, the super deluxe box set contains “The Power to Believe,” the fifteenth and final album in the anniversary series to be available in both surround and stereo too. While this is the set I have, I will not be reviewing this larger box set, as it is simply too large! Instead I will focus on the two studio albums that have been mixed in surround sound audio.
I first pulled out my compact disc copy of The ConstruKction of Light to recall why it became so imperative to record all new drums parts and ditch the electronic “V” drums Pat Mastelotto had laid down some 20 years ago. Simply put this radical change by King Crimson to use electronic drums lacked dynamic punch, which should be so apparent even to novice ears when listening to the newly laid down acoustic drum parts on Reconstrukction of Light. Some purists may find this new version off-putting, as the drums are not a duplicate of the original tracks, rather musically they are unique, redefining the entire characteristics of the songs. What used to be very mechanical as been given life, while still producing an utterly backward-looking album, containing a heavy-handed nod to previous Crimson songs
So, now basically in a ‘drumatic’ way, fans not only have a semi-new album from this legendary band, but another KC 5.1 mix to immerse themselves with. The DVD contains MLP 48kHz / 24-bit and DTS surround sound, along with MLP and PCM stereo. This decrease in sampling rate came as a bit of a surprise given all of the earlier releases featured 96kHz / 24-bit audio. Of course, a change in audio engineers, studios, and equipment likely resulted in these differences. But as we know, it still all comes down to sound quality.
Singleton does provide an immersive 5.1 experience placing alternate guitars in the back channels shooting across the rears creating an extremely open feeling. Drums and guitars reverberate from the front to the back speakers yielding a deep soundstage that fully encompasses the sweet spot. Both founder and guitarist Robert Fripp along with guitarist Adrian Belew sound smooth and vibrant as their parts reflect across the soundstage. Gritty vocals seemingly penetrate from all directions while keyed between the front channels. In a nearly quad fashion, I noticed limited action from the center channel, which has become my preference for surround mixes.
The newly cut acoustic drums really add snap to the album, particularly the snare that makes great use of dynamics with Mastelotto’s soft to loud touch. Cymbals shimmer and the kick has a dramatic thump, all incredible improvements over the dull and lifeless electronic drums heard on the original album. Check it out for yourself, the original stereo mix is available in PCM on the DVD.
The surround mix is by no means stagnant across all the songs, listeners will hear solos soar from the back channels, and the center channel distinctly comes to life on FraKtured with an additional guitar part that counterbalances the already arpeggiated parts.
While the recording is clean, I did find the mix to be a bit splashy and the bass somewhat muddier than I would like. The lossy DTS surround layer lacks some of this heaviness at the bottom and may be a preferred surround listening choice if the thin and compressed codec suits your ears. Furthermore, with Gunn having mixed the stereo layer, his engineering style doesn’t dig in as deep on the lows, making the stereo mix a nicely balanced version for those who find the surround version to be a bit bottom heavy too. I checked out both the MLP and PCM stereo codecs of the 2019 mix and noticed no effective difference.
The original album mixes from 2000 is also presented as both MLP and PCM along with a PCM stereo edition of the ProjeKctX album “Heaven and Earth,” the later which will rattle your walls and let your neighbors know you are at home.
Naturally, the anniversary edition of The ReconstruKction Of Light is a must have for all King Crimson collectors, surround enthusiasts, and progressive rock fans seeking a heavier new millennium sound. This is absolutely not the place to start with King Crimson, and is very heavy compared to much of their earlier works. The music thrives on power and demands listening at high volumes. A true wall of sound from the masters of progressive rock.
1 CD + 1 DVD-A with 48kHz / 24-bit 5.1 and stereo mixes. Also available on Blu-ray in 48k/24b along with tons of additional material as part of a super deluxe edition titled Heaven and Earth.
Get your copy here:
Deluxe DVD Edition
Super Deluxe Heaven & Arth Box Set
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