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Henry Cow - Western Culture CD (album) cover

WESTERN CULTURE

Henry Cow

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.33 | 221 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars "Chamber music played in colour instead of black and white." -- brother John.

I find this album of Rock-in-Opposition music to be far more melodic and accessible, though still quite similar, to that of UNIVERS ZÉRO. The whole avant garde/RIO subgenre I find fascinating though often more cerebral or basic instinct in its access points. Thus, I need to be in "the right kind of mood" when I choose to listen to it.

The Tim Hodgkinson side of this album starts out with one of the more accessible and (therefore) enjoyable songs before taking one on the trail to the precipice. Song three, "On the Raft" finds me feeling as if I'm there, in view of the whole world, sky, land, and the abyss before me, at my feet. There are moments of elation and majesty countered by abrupt shifts into fear and despair. (My vertigo is setting in!) Then there is a familiar Weather Report chord sequence to offer me a lifeline! But no, it's not to be. Darkness falls, disorientation occurs, balance is lost, and we slip--we fall into "Falling away"--down the dizzying rabbit hole. The song is surprisingly slow for the first three minutes before gravitational acceleration takes hold. I thought side two, Lindsay Cooper's side, is supposed to be the lighter, brighter side! This is like an Acadian dirge! But, there are tempo and stylistic shifts. But "Gretel's Tale" gets darker, bleaker, and "Look Back" feels like the funereal aftermath: everyone sitting around in self-isolating numb silence with the occasional distraction of a movement from someone, something--perhaps a cat. The finale, "Half the Sky" is heavy, perhaps like the hellish afterworld to which we are doomed. Still, I can't help but be encouraged by the "light" and "levity" provided by the organ and saxophone, respectively.

To conceive, compose, perform, and render these ideas, this music, into history via the vinyl medium is an amazing feat. I'm so glad it was! Not the most uplifting or optimistic of musics, but of tremendous curiosity from the creativity perspective.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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