Reading the full name of this release – Jakszyk, Fripp And Collins With Levin And Harrison – A Scarcity Of Miracles – A King Crimson ProjeKct – leads to one central and almost unbelievable thought: this must be a new King Crimson album after all these years (the last album was released in 2003). But it is just like Robert Fripp, King Crimson’s mastermind and guitarist, wrote in the album’s liner notes: listening to A Scarcity Of Miracles is “like meeting a close member of the [King Crimson] family for the first time”.
The opening title track already hints at the past with a long soundscape intro featuring the well-known Fripp guitar synthesizer sound. But there is more: Mel Collins’ well-placed saxophone notes (his first work with Fripp since King Crimson’s 1974 masterpiece Red) and Jakko Jakszyk’s guitar lines enhance the sound to a new level. Adding the most interesting parts are Tony Levin with his superb trademark bass work and finally Gavin Harrison with his brilliant drumming, known from Porcupine Tree. They are the driving force of the song, together with the initial Fripp soundscape. The song itself is a somehow sad mid-tempo ballad offering a sonic beauty that has been rarely heard before in the history of King Crimson. But this seems to be the overall theme of the album as all songs are rather melancholic and only have the aggressive touch of the previous albums in very few moments.
The second track “The Price We Pay” starts with another famous Crimson element: the incorporation of Eastern music. Jakszyk plays a Gu Zheng, a Chinese zither, during the song but also the song’s structure has the feeling of the 80’s King Crimson line-up and reminds me of their Gamelan-inspired pop ballads. “Secrets” and “This House” are similar but the first halves of both songs are based on soundscapes. Yet the final, slightly faster part of “This House” is one of the album’s greatest moments. All five musicians take the song to a higher level and give their best.
“The Other Man” again features the Gu Zheng in a very prominent role during the song’s intro. This time the song is harder and more aggressive than the rest of the album, coming close to the previous sound of King Crimson.
The last song “The Light Of Day” is played without drums but with so many beautiful textures and great panning and delay effects that especially this song becomes a real treat for headphone listening.
Very interesting is the fact that most of the songs are based on soundscapes which carry on through the whole tracks most of the time. The interplay between Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins reminds me of the similar guitar/saxophone soundscapes of Travis & Fripp. Furthermore Jakszyk’s vocals are often harmonized, nevertheless they really fit to the music and are very good. As a last note I have to emphasize the album’s brilliant mastering and its powerful but crystal-clear and natural sound. I’ve rarely heard such a great sound before.
After all, this album simply is fantastic. It is unbelievable how the musicians play through the songs in such a seemingly simple manner but actually the songs are very complex. It might not be King Crimson as usual but so many elements are present. This music really is something special and another huge development in the Crimson history but it is even more: here, we have a new aspect of progressive rock, something which hasn’t been heard before at all.