Art Bears - Winter Songs
Digi-pack and remastered excellently by Bob Drake, this was the 2nd and best known album by the successor band to Henry Cow, as it was released in the States by The Residents' Ralph label, in the early 80's and at the peak of their market influence at that time. With Dagmar Krause-vocals, Chris Cutler-drums, electronics & Fred Frith-guitars, keyboards, violin, etc. + all the rest of Henry Cow. Songs with powerful lyrics built upon experimental kernels. This is many folks' favorite of their three. "Wintersongs...offers an even stronger, clearer set of artistic visions. Here the trio of ART BEARS stand alone, and the stripped- down sense of instrumentation, which almost resembles a standard combo (guitar, bass, piano, drums and singing), makes a simpler (though more poignant) musical statement. Often Fred Frith's penchant for angular melodies is forestalled, and re- placed with single note, "non-melodies" in a sort of minimalist, rhythmic accordance to the text's settings. Experimental studio work and effects abound, yet the sound is more economical and hard-hitting than the band's earlier work." [ReR]
Fred Frith, Chris Cutler and Dagmar Krause have produced a large body of work, either singly or with each other, and I've heard a lot of it. It all has great intensity, but this is the most intense music they've produced (that's saying something). Almost minimalist, with great studio embellishments and atmosphere, yet you could imagine these pieces being played live. And "Winter Songs" is a good title - bleak, but with an icy dangerous beauty of some sort. Very different, but not strange, if you can handle Dagmar's voice. Exception: "Rats and Monkeys", the most intense song on their most intense album, the most intense three minute pop song ever done, period. Post your own review if you don't agree. -T.A.
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