Tag Archives: Avant-garde

Art Bears – Upon a wheel a cockerel crows

Art Bears became a member of the Rock in Opposition movement in December 1978 where the RIO members met in Sunrise Studio Kirchberg.

The band was formed by members of now disbanded Henry Cow

The debut was released May 1978, containing 9 tracks recorded by Henry Cow in January and 5 tracks by Art Bears in March 1978.

The album can be seen as a “last”  Henry Cow, but with more “song” orientated material than previous albums, as the instrumental recordings would mainly appear on Henry Cow’s Western Culture (1979).

Art bears: Hopes and Fears – “In Two Minds” (recorded by Henry Cow)

 

Art Bears first “true” album with songs intended for and preformed only by Art Bears came soon after, “Winter Songs” recorded in late 1978 and released in 1979.

This is my favorite Art Bears album, within its own genre a relative accessible piece of art, the band is now a trio with Fred Frith playing all instruments, Chris Cutler Drums & Percussion, topped with a stunning vocal by Dagmar Krause.

Upon a – wheel a – cockerel crows the – crimson dawn

There is a medival theme to the record, sending thoughts in direction of early 70’s masters like Jethro Tull or Gentle Gaint, underlined by some supreme violin from Frith.

 

Art Bears made a last album “The World as It Is Today” in late summer 1980 released in 1981, the radical political ambitions of the band is now even more evident with track like “”The Song of Investment Capital Overseas”.

I empty villages – I burn their houses down – I set up factories

The music also seems more inspired by “industrialism” with more repetitive themes that may reflect the machinery and work processes of modern day.

In my opinion a less inspired effort compared to Winter Songs but not bad at all, absolutely worth a listen or rather many listens, this is not music you can expect to digest or comprehend investing 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Samla Mammas Manna

Samla Mammas Manna was formed in Uppsala, north of Stockholm , Sweden in 1969. They got a Record deal with Silence Records, and released their self-titled debut in the spring of 1971. Samla’s music was very playfull yet avant-gardistic, a kind of freeform Jazz/Rock with elements of Swedish folk tradition.
Samla have undergone name changes over the years, mainly due to changes in lineup. They also released albums as Zamla Mammaz Manna and von Zamla.

The form was further refined on their second album “Måltid” from 1973, where more elements of Frank Zappa’ish avant-garde, Jazz/Rock and Prog was added, “Måltid” stands as a highlight in their production.
Samla’s music has a wonderful sillyness, craziness and humour, very unique to the Scandinavian scene at the time, where everyone was very radical and focused on a political agenda.

Samla Mammas Manna, was part of the original “Rock in Opposition” movement, and took part in the first RIO festival in London. They participated in Several RIO events and Samla Mammas Manna also organized a festival in Stockholm. Samla Mammas Manna organized a Henry Cow tour in Sweden, and Etron Fou organized a tour for Samlas in France.

RockInOpposition_flyer

Lars Hollmer, the founding father and main creative force behind Samla, died 25 December 2008. But on the 2014 Japanese Rio festival held in November, his name, his music, and his spirit will be honoured, by Sola/Lars Hollmer’s global home project, a Band formed by Hollmer and Japanese Avant musician in 2001.

Lars Hollmer – The Global Home Project – 2002

The Circle Maker

In a wonderful combination of Jazz, World and Chamber music, John Zorn have on this album, taken the music of his Hebrew background, using traditional Jewish melodies and scales from the Hebrew folk tradition, and arranged them for a modern Jazz/Chamber setting.

Even though Zorn is saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist himself, on this album, he is composer and producer only. First half of the project called “Issachar”, performed by a trio of Violin – Cello – Bass. The second half called “Zevulun” performed with the addition of Guitar – Percussion – Drums.

Zorn (born September 2, 1953) usually known as an American avant-garde composer, working with almost any kind of experimental music since the mid 70’s, trying to expand on the borders and eliminate the limits of music.
This album from his “Masada” project, traditional in its origin, seems very calm and soft, Zorn said about the hundreds of songs he has written in this tradition : “The project for Masada was to create something positive in the Jewish tradition something that maybe takes the idea of Jewish music into the 21st century”

The musicians on the project was :
Mark Feldman: Violin – Erik Friedlander: Cello – Greg Cohen: Bass
Marc Ribot: Guitar – Cyro Baptista: Percussion – Joey Baron: Drums

The True Legend of Henry The Cow

Rock In Opposition, part 2 – Henry Cow.
The Core off Henry Cow was a trio, all multi instrumentalists credited with a wide range of instruments over their albums, Chris Cutler : drums, piano, trumpet, vocals, Whistle , Toy instruments ; Fred Frith : guitar, piano, violin, keyboards, bass, viola, xylophone, vocals ; Tim Hodgkinson : organ, clarinet, hawaiian guitar, piano, keyboards, saxophones, vocals. Besides the trio a series of other members and guest appeared in the band. The band was founded in the late 60’s but had it first record out in 1973.

From: The Henry Cow Legend 1973 (later released as Legend or Leg End on different labels)

Right from the debut Henry Cow played a highly sophisticated and complex combination of styles, seemingly inspired from as different directions as Progressive Rock like Soft Machine and Gentle Giant, Avant-garde Jazz, and Modern Classical music.

From Unrest 1974

During the middle of the 70’s, Henry Cow collaborated with another Avant-garde band, Slap Happy. Resulting in two 1975 albums, Slap Happy’s Desperate Straights and Henry Cow’s “In Praise Of Learning” both featuring members from both bands, notably German vocalist Dagmar Kraus, with whom Frith and Cutler would form Art Bears. Personally I prefer what they did with Art Bears, most of “In Praise Of Learning” seems to be too confused for my taste, but it does contain one masterpiece, with vocal extraordinary from Dagmar Kraus, the very beautiful “Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army With Banners”.

From “In Praise Of Learning” 1975

As a result of the work with Kraus, there was a disagreement within the band, about how much material should be song focused, and how much should be instrumental, as a result the material with songs was released as the “Art Bears” debut, and the instrumental work was released as Henry Cows final album, Western Culture. Even though Western Culture was Henry Cows last album, and a result of disagreement, today it seems as a highlight. The sound is great, and the music is still as fresh today as it was back then.
Uncompromising avant-garde at its best, as Henry Cow could do it so well, also a demanding album, most people won’t immediately enjoy. All the music was written by Tim Hodgkinson and female bassoon, oboe, sax player Lindsay Cooper, as all the Cutler/Frith material went to the Art Bears album.

From Western Culture 1979

Henry Cow was the founding force behind the RIO movement in 1978, shortly before the group would disband, and its members would move into different other band constellations.

Rock In Opposition

Rock In Opposition, part 1 – Introduction.
RIO came as a result of British avant-garde group Henry Cow’s frustration with the music industry in the late 70’s, having travelled in Europe for most of the 70’s, and met with other avant-garde bands, they came to the conclusion that the industry was only interested in the finances not the music, making it almost impossible to create an innovative art, within the system. They invited bands of similar interests to England, and created the first Rock in Opposition festival in 1978.

Japanese band Korekyojinn at the 2013 Rock In Opposition festival.

In the beginning it was a movement or organisation, but it has also become associated with a genre, used to describe an Avant-garde style of (Rock) music, incorporating elements from 20th century Classical music, free from Jazz and experimental Rock, into an eclectic highly complex progressive rock music. That said, not every RIO associated band, plays the same style of Avant-Garde so it is impossible to give a precise description. When the term is used as a genre it is sometimes associated with the works of Frank Zappa, but it would be more correct to say that he inspired many of the RIO acts.

Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention 1969

The original RIO festival included 5 different acts : Henry Cow (England), Stormy Six (Italy), Samla Mammas Manna (Sweden), Univers Zero (Belgium) and Etron Fou Leloublan (France). Soon the organisation also included Art Zoyd (France), Aksak Maboul (Belgium) and Art Bears (England), Art Bears was made of former Henry Cow members, as Henry Cow disbanded shortly after RIO was created.

Stormy Six – 1977

The organisation was short lived, but they had created attention, proved there was a need for a music not able to exist within the borders of the UK/US record industry, made a record company Recommended Records to distribute this music, and many bands have been inspired by them. The Rio movement is not dead, Rio festival are still held and new generations make RIO inspired albums.
Etron Fou Leloublan – live 1979

Hidden 80′s Gems – Part 4 1984

1984 is an absurd year in music, a year so full of good stuff coming out that it should be impossible. But I did decide to pick just one, because that is what I set out to do in the first place. The two albums I found it hardest not to choose was Hüsker Dü’s brilliant “Zen Arcade” and “Dead can Dance” unique self-titled debut. I have chosen Laurie because she was the one I bought just when it came out, the one important to me back then.

Sharkey’s Day

Laurie Anderson – Mister Heartbreak – 1984
My mother had read an article in her newspaper about this American poet, having made an album with an impressive cast of supporting musicians, she knew I was crazy about Peter Gabriel, so she showed it to me. When I also read that King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew was playing on the album. I had to go get it.

Gravity’s Angel

Only one album, I have ever heard before this one, is based on Poetry and still work as an album, and that is Jim Morrison’s posthumous An American Prayer, it is very hard to combine spoken words and music into something listenable, but Laurie and her cast, makes it melt together, one supporting the other.
Mister Heartbreak is a journey, sunny and beautiful, dreamy and surrealistic, surprising and changing all the time, that is just the music, when you get deeper into the lyrics, things become really strange.

Kokoku

Bo Diddley – a song

“Bo Diddley” is a rhythm and blues/rock and roll song first recorded and sung by Bo Diddley in 1955, the song has no chord change. It became an immediate hit. It was Bo Diddley’s first recording and his first hit single. The Bo Diddley beat, which is essentially African, was to become a backbone in Rock n Roll.

In “The Animals” “story of Bo Diddley” (1964). Eric Burdon tells the story about this Rhythm, and how it developed into Rock n Roll, from Bo Diddley to Beatles and Stones.

It was used again by Punk Hardcore band “Husker Dü” on “Hare Krsna” from their 1984 album Zen Arcade, the same song as Bo Diddely, but with different lyrics, and played with a wild acid punk flavor.

Another version of the song can be heard on “Aksak Maboul”s “Un Peu De L’Ame Des Bandits” (1979), Aksak Maboul was a Belgian Avant-Garde band founded in 1977 by Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis. In this version the track is called “A Modern Lesson [Bo Diddley]”, it transforms from the Bo Diddley rhythm, into jazz inspired avant-garde.

King Crimson – The Lizard Suite

If you did not read “Lizard” part one and two, start here.

Just as unexpected as side A of the album may have sounded, to anyone hoping to get another “In the Court of The Crimson King”, just as unexpected come Jon Andersons vocals, at the beginning of the 23 minute “Lizard”, a beautiful symphonic Rock classic, subtitled “Prince Rupert Awakes” (4.36).

Lizard : Prince Rupert Awakes & The Peacock’s Tale

Andersons vocals sends thoughts in the direction of early Yes albums, but the music definitely Crimson, not unlike The Crimson we know from the two previous albums. The 2nd Part of the Suite “Bolero – The Peacock’s Tale”, is yet another sharp turn in style, first a soft melodic piece, moving into a jazzy jam, but this time not frantic as the side A jams, much more polite, with great piano and horn sections, in the end returning to the soft melodic style.

Lizard : The Battle Of The Glass Tears – Big Top

The third part of the suite “The Battle Of The Glass Tears (10:58)”, opens with a soft vocal section from Haskell, from there moves into a wild section, of almost chaotic (symphonic?) Jazz Rock, most likely illustrating the battle itself, and from there into a calm section where Fripp’s guitar solo tops a bass rhythm. The album ends with a short piece “Big Top” a circus like piece, pointing back to the track opener. Just like if the record wants you to start again.
According to Eric Tamm, Fripp should have stated about Lizard : “We’ve made it so that the 24th time things’ll really begin to go Zap. Im not sure he was right about that, think it depends on the listener, but yes, Lizard is hard to get into music, and you should definitely give it more than a few runs, to make it “Zap”. But I guess with most albums, you should, except those made specifically for mass consumption.

Happy family, one hand clap !

Lizard (part 2).
If you did not check out part 1 start here.

Happy Family is the last of the upbeat tracks from side 1 of the original vinyl.
A surreal reflection on the Beatles split. The track features distorted vocals, that may seem a bit over the top, in today’s ears. The true brilliance on this track is the piano (Keith Tippet), and the numbers of solo’s going in and out, often many at the same time, on a lot of instruments, a total trip attacking our ears, very experimental , Jazz Rock Fussion +.

Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree/No-man) liner notes for his remix of Lizard 40th Anniversary Edition.:
“I’ve always felt that if presented in the right way, I could make a case for this being the most experimental rock record ever made. It’s extraordinary what they’re doing on this album. In terms of fusing free-jazz with progressive rock for me there’s almost no parallel and yet it seems to an album that is overlooked by jazz fans and progressive rock fans alike.”

After those complex tracks, it would be time for a softer piece, and that is what we get. The first half of the album concludes with a ballad of pure beauty. LADY OF THE DANCING WATERS

The Original Version.

Alternative take, bonus track from the 40th Anniversary Edition.

To be continued.

Crimson – Playing Indoor Games

Friday is Fripp day.

After opening the doors of Symphonic Rock wide open, with the milestone album, In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson in 1969, and paving the way for what was to become the super groups of Progressive Symphonic Rock, “Emerson, Lake & Palmer” , “Yes” and “Genesis”. Fripp and with him King Crimson already in 1970, left Symphonic Progressive Rock, for good, with Lizard. So what did we get instead? In my opinion something even better, Lizard is a combination of inspirations, from so many sources in music, and performed to excellence.

Now let us start from the beginning : Circus.

The insane amounts of layers, the combination of Rock Drums , Symphonic layers of mellotron, the extremely odd-beat acoustic guitar (Fripp), the saxophone (Mel Collins) and the absurd song itself.
A massive opener as close to avant-garde jazz as it is to Rock. Lizard may almost be seen as a genre of its own. Critics may with good reason say; this is way too complicated for Rock music, I would answer, yes but is it Rock music. ? Or rather I have no idea what the hell it is. I just want more!


Indoor Games, a bit lighter in texture than Circus, due to the more structured melody in the vocals.
But we are not listening to your everyday car radio rock, things are still very complex, odd tempo, and the instruments seem often to play up against each other, as much as together.
“Indoor fireworks amuse your kitchen staff” quite a sing along by the bonfire, just that I don’t know anyone who could play this. This time Fripp plays wonder on both electric and acoustic guitar.

To be continued.