Saturday, June 21, 2008

DECIBEL-FIAT LUX: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS (1977-2000, 3CD BOX-SET, MEXICO)


”The safest way not to be swallowed is to be unpalatable I guess.” Chris Cutler.
As a term, Rock In Opposition (RIO) is used to describe a large variety of second generation progressive rock bands and their derivations up to the present day. Originally a single concert coupled with a loose organizational spirit, RIO disintegrated rather quickly, but at the same time this epithet lingered and spread past its European roots. Arranged in March 1978 in London by Henry Cow (England) and Stormy Six (Italy), the Rock In Opposition concert at the New London Theatre additionally featured Samla Mammas Manna (Sweden), Etron Fou Leloublan (France), and Univers Zero (Belgium). Later official additions to the roster accepted Art Bears, Art Zoyd (France), and Aqsak Maboul (Belgium). According to releases at the time, and resulting from charged debates between the bands, RIO groups adhered to the following criteria:
(A) That of musical excellence. This depending on their collective evaluation of the same.(B) That of working actively outside the establishment of music business.(C) That of having a social commitment to Rock.
In practical terms, this meant collaboration in tours, distribution and manufacturing of music, cross-promotion, and general development of alternative outlets in media. Of course, someone had to go and bring up politics, which irrevocably ended the formal RIO relationship. Stormy Six, avowedly Communist as only Italians know how, accused Univers Zero of only being concerned with formalism and Samlas Mammas Manna as apolitical. Stormy Six were then labeled too populist, and after several concerts in 1979 the bands dropped the RIO label. However, the informal links made proved to last, as did the notions of management which set up such enterprises as Chris Cutler’s Recommended Records.
RIO was a survival method as much as an active statement. Early progressive rock had the support of album-oriented FM radio, major labels willing to put out side-length songs, and large audiences devoted to experimentation within the rock format. Even Henry Cow, which had begun on the Virgin label, found that by the late 1970s the music industry had degenerated so much they released their 1979 effort Western Culture on their own imprint. Mainstream progressive rock had shifted to a ghostly shell of itself, with acts like Styx and Journey assuming the mantle and herding it into large football stadiums. Prog rock, which succeeded solely on the margin in the first place, suddenly had no middle ground. While the punk movement takes credit today for introducing so-called DIY methods into music, it was partly the punk phenomenon that ended the limited taste for prog in the music industry.
For record labels, punk rock’s legacy, more than anything else, was the re-establishment of the single-oriented band as the quintessence of how to make money in music. To this day we suffer under the yoke of albums drenched with filler songs and produced by committee. Thank you Mr. McLaren, may I have another?
As a response to the cultural malaise of the time, RIO also reached backwards into musical roots that subsequently insured their limited financial success. Stockhausen, Cage, Kagel, and Boulez were drawn from, as well as the radical strains of European and American jazz. As with most avant-garde movements in the 20th century, this led to an international communion of sorts, both in and out of Europe. Bands that had existed in solitude found an idiom and, most importantly, a small market for their efforts. It was in this era that the Mexican group Decibel achieved a small amount of success and produced some stunning music.
All the studio work and some live material by this band are collected on the 3-CD Mio Records set Fiat Lux, featuring their 1979 full length El Poeta del Ruido, a track contributed to a 1982 Recommended Records quarterly LP, and several albums recorded in the 1990s by a revamped lineup. While Mexican psych rock goes back to bands such as The Spiders and Los Dug Dugs, the 1970s brought more symphonic groups like Nueva Mexico and Al Universo. Decibel were a rare exception to the prog acts of this period in Mexico, and were well versed in European groups such as Faust, Magma, Gong, and the Italian prog masters Il Balletto di Bronzo. The lineup centered around keyboardist Carlos Robledo, bassist Walter Schmidt, and percussionist Jaime Casteneda (Scmhidt and Robledo began playing together as Decibel in 1974). Three months after the original 1978 RIO festival in England, Decibel performed at a RIO festival at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, which can also be heard on the Fiat Lux set.
The centerpiece of this set is certainly the 1979 album El Poeta del Ruido, released in a pressing of 1,000 and distributed in the UK by Recommended in 1980. The title track is a gem, equal to any of Henry Cow’s structured pieces and in most places darker. The song includes a complex structure, odd electronic manipulations in the background, and percussion and keyboards sped up to a blindingly fast speed. Equal parts Uncle Meat and Magma, the track is brilliantly delicate in some instances, removing all the portly elements associated with their Zeuhl forebears.
Few tracks on the album share this structure, however. Several stand out as Stockhausen-inspired, with abstract loops comparable to Raymond Scott or Cluster. Others summon the more chaotic elements of Faust’s Tapes. Overall the album goes beyond many of the RIO associated records of the age, as it consistently defies expectations in both form and instrumentation. The live performances from this era are equally impressive; during one point is hard to distinguish Decibel from any good live AMM recording. Lastly, Decibel does not deserve the designation of “Chamber Rock,” a term of slander for most musicians rather than praise. Against the cold dexterity of bands like Univers Zero and Art Zoyd, Decibel stands out as engaging and provocative.
The question remains surrounding RIO: Opposition to what? Although these bands disagreed between themselves over the answer, a general idea surfaced. These bands committed themselves to existing and working outside the traditional avenues of the music industry, whether by fortune or design, with the recognition that when large amounts of money changes hands art becomes the last priority. The wide range of beliefs between these musicians - from the communist dogma of Stormy Six, the extreme leftists in Henry Cow, the Latin surrealism of Decibel, or the whimsy Zappa-styled politics of Samla Mammas Manna - all agreed on the enemy. RIO became one of the many glorious failures between art and the Left that pepper our history, a Popular Front for the post-1960s avant-garde. Importantly, this was done before our so-called information revolution, and few could imagine it taking place today, when the queue of bands willing to play ball at any costs literally stretches coast to coast. RIO confirmed that the social function of art is to a large extent determined by the artist, and when that role is relinquished, there are forces eager to fill the opening. If John Grierson was right, as art being not a mirror but a hammer, then it begs the question whether art is a weapon or a tool. Decibel and their contemporaries understood it, rightly so, as both. (By Kevan Harris)




"Fortuna Virilis plus..."
(Recorded between 1992-1998)

"In Concert plus..."
(tracks 1-6 live at X-Teresa Museum, Mexico City, 2 march 2000,
tracks 7-12 Archives 1977-1979)
"El Poeta del Ruido plus..."
(Recorded between 1978-1979)
The release consists of a box of three CDs which may be sold separately, and includes many previously unreleased tracks (including the twenty-minute Safari Suit, archival material from 1977, the ReR Demo, and others), early recordings, new live material, and, of course, improved sound quality of all the previously released material. Everything is presented in a handsome box, and the CDs includes some amazing original artwork by the band.

Monday, June 2, 2008

CRY FREEDOM-VOLCANO (1976, LP, GERMANY)

German private pressing of first album from 1976 by Franconian band around Rudi Madsius (pre-Streetlife), containing great complex progressive like krautrock-jazz with hammond organ, sax, English vocals, fantastic heavy drumming and great fuzz guitar, rare!
Tracklist: 01. Euthanasie-Suite (9:50) 02. Ländlich (7:50) 03. Epitaph (3:47) 04. Volcano (10:36) 05. Mambo auf Burg Eckbertstein (6:00) 06. Bayrisch Blue (2:56)
Musicians: Gerhard Billann (keyboards), Klaus Braun (drums, percussion), Klaus Kukla (bass, bells), Rudi Madsius (guitar, vocals), Didier "Sont"Urbassik (saxophones).
REQUEST! I search the other two lp's "Sunny days" (1979) and "Nobody's fool (1980); if someone have one of these album please contact-me!
here

EGBERTO GISMONTI-ACADEMIA DE DANCAS (1974, CD, BRAZIL)

This is a masterpiece from Egberto Gismonti's discography. Fantastic!!
click here

LACRYMOSA-BUGBEAR (1983-84, CD, JAPAN)

REPOST!
On the first full-length album of the Japanese band Lacrymosa, they already had developed completely their doom-ridden, avant-garde, chamber rock. With an instrumental line-up that includes violin, oboe, clarinet, saxophone and cello, it is probably no surprise that they often sound like a modern chamber music ensemble, albeit supported by a rock music rhythm section. Often the band sounds about as creepy and threatening as Univers Zero. It is not hard to imagine this music as part of a horror movie soundtrack. There are several beautiful, almost pastoral melodic sections, but usually within a few bars musical elements foreshadowing upcoming disaster or threat fill the sonic air. Lacrymosa is significantly harsher and darker in sound than the somewhat similar Japanese band Zypressen, who have a more delicate take on "chamber rock". Bugbear is a great album and recommended listening for anyone into the RIO scene or avantgarde rock. (Gnosis)

HET PANDORRA ENSEMBLE-III, DISASTER ELECTRONICS (1978, LP, HOLLAND)

Het Pandorra Ensemble is an experimental group formed by Dolf Planteijdt that started around 1974 and ended in 1978. At the same time they played in the popgroup Door Mekaar.The band started with Gert Jan Blom (bass guitar), Roland Brunt (flute), Jean Eble (drums) and Dolf Planteijdt (guitar). When the band started to record an album, Brunt left, and he was replaced by Dolf's brother Wouter Planteijdt, who had just left the band Speed.After the group broke up all the musicians played in numerous bands, both as member and guest. Gert-Jan Blom played in bands like Bauer, Fay Lovski and The Beau Hunks. Wilfrid Snellens played in Black Slacks but sadly died in 1997. Dolf Planteijdt became a well known producer of punk bands, but also played in Morzelpronk. And Wouter Planteijdt was a member of (a.o.) Corry & De Grote Brokken, Morzelpronk, Sjardin's Terrible Surprise and Sjako!. He also appears on the album "A view from the valley" (1985) by Grin.
Tracklist: 1.Door mekaar (D. Planteijdt) [10:07] 2.Kanon pittoresk (D. Planteijdt) [10:47] 3.Ritme 7000 (D. Planteijdt) [2:40] 4.Drei (D. Planteijdt) [4:37] 5.Karotten (D. Planteijdt) [15:08]
Musicians: Gert-Jan Blom (Bass guitar), Wouter Planteijdt (Guitar), Wilfrid Snellens (Drums),
Dolf Planteijdt (Guitar), guest musicians: Roland Brunt (flute), Kaspar (organ).
Review: Let me start by saying that this album is Holland's best kept secret. It is an excellent album that contains some of the best progressive music recorded in the Netherlands. It is experimental, complex and very exciting.The Pandorra Ensemble was an experimental band led by the Planteijdt brothers, who both played guitar. The music is completely instrumental, and except from one track, it is bass (in the style of Chris Squire or Peter Vink), drums and lots of guitars. If compared to other bands, they have something in common with King Crimson. This shows in their avant garde type of rock and also in the guitar playing of Wouter Planteijdt which resembles the style of Robert Fripp. If Crimson had recorded an album in 1978, this is how it could have sounded. Other references are Djam Karet and mathrock from bands like Don Caballero.The album consists of three long tracks and two shorter ones. The first track is Door Mekaar. The main feature of this track is two guitars playing together and against each other. The opening has a Canterbury feel over it. After a quiet center part the song is build up again with a bass solo and ends with a fantastic guitar solo. A great track that really defines the sound of the Pandorra Ensemble. The second track is Kanon Pittoresk. With it's repetitive themes the start of this track is the closest they come to mathrock. Halfway, the most breathtaking minutes of the album pass you by. The rhythm of the song changes and a guitar solo that bring tears to your eyes start. At the end the same solo is played again, but this time up-tempo. To slow things a bit and for the listener to take a deep breath, the album follows with two shorter tracks: Ritme 7000 and Drei. The first is guitar and bass and on top of that a flute, played by Roland Brunt. It is a nice little tune. The second is best compared to the opening of Crimson's Lark's Tongues In Aspic, part 1. In the middle a few people shout numbers in German, although almost not audible. This is a sort of intro to the closer of the album, Karotten. This one starts very quiet but soon they pick up some sort of groove with a heavy bass guitar and some great soloing ( a mix between Akkerman and Fripp). When the song becomes quiet again and you think the album is over, they play a sort of reprise with a very beautiful and melodic piece of music.The musicianship of all players is very high. But a special word goes out to both guitarists. They can easily be added to the list of great dutch guitarist, where they complete the top three with Jan Akkerman (Focus) and Joop van Nimwegen (Finch). The production of the album is also very good. There is one point of criticism about this release: this album should be released on cd as soon as possible. And not some vinyl rip, but a proper remastered album. And then everybody who wants to add an excellent album to it's collection can get it. (Dutch progressive rock)
click here

OCTOBRE-SURVIVANCE (1975, LP, CANADA)

Third album from the Flynn-lead Octobre, named after a made-up word (survivance would mean ability or aptitude at survival), and by now Octobre is at the top of its game, as was starting Quebec’s progressive rock boom. Offenbach, Maneige and Octobre will found a short-lived partnership to play more gigs, then play with Harmonium (who was to become huge in their home province) and Beau Domage. This lead to recording Survivance, recorded again at Studio Six at the end of the summer of 75, with another non- committing artwork sleeve.
Starting out on the superb (and relatively lengthy) almost-instrumental Tendre Torture (sweet/soft torture), Octobre shows that Flynn’s songs were not their only strength, and the ever-changing track is a small tour de force. Christiane Robichaud’s choirs are to be heard on both instrumental, each starting the vinyl sides. In this regard, Baptême De L’Air (aerial christening) is another stunning instrumental that shines like the sun. At the time, Quebec’s political conscience was in full bloom, and the artistic/cultural revolution in full prime, and En Famille celebrates a festival where 100 000 partied on the Mont Royal and celebrated like a family feast, but something is brewing in Flynn’s mood as not right. La Valse à 11 Temps is definitely one of Octobre more “prog” tracks, sounding like Crimson would had Fripp been from La Belle Province. Of course, you understood that the track is in 11/4, no doubt a remnant of their concert with King Crimson headlining.
L’Oiseau Rouge (red bird) is one of the best-produced tracks where the group’s full dynamic range is emphasized, and they sound like Supertramp (Asylum) meeting Mahavishnu Orchestra, if you can picture that. The closing title track is Flynn’s more personal text on the album about his feeling in the music industry, and Hebert’s excellent drum rolls save the track from sinking in cheesyland. Another filler is Encore Ce Soir, no doubt inspired by the whining of Flynn’s girlfriend.
Tracklist: 1. Tendre Torture (instrumental) (6:27) 2. Cet Instant (4:05) 3. La Valse À Onze Temps (4 :11) 4. En Famille (3:29) 5. Baptême De L'air (instrumental) (3:26) 6. Tu T'en Vas Encore Ce Soir (4:26) 7. L`Oiseau Rouge (4:48) 8. Survivance (3:43) Musicians:
Pierre Flynn / keyboards, lead vocals- Jean Dorais / guitars - Mario Légaré / bass- Pierre Hébert / drums (progarchives)
click here

ODYSSEE-WHITE SWAN (1978, LP, GERMANY)

Way above average German symphonic progressive album. This one has a lot more meat on its bones than most of the somnambulant snoozers coming from there during this time. For one thing, the tempo is faster and they mix in some time changes, to help keep it interesting throughout. Full fledged band sound with a thick production. The thematic sections are well developed, and a melody or two can actually be committed to memory. There’s a definite Genesis influence, but not as much as Neuschwanstein, Ivory and Sirius. There’s even a little funky business in the bass lines. A very good album that could use a legit CD reissue. (OML)