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Art Bears - Hopes and Fears CD (album) cover


Art Bears



3.77 | 96 ratings

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4 stars Despite being labeled as an Art Bears album, Hopes and Fears was recorded mostly by Henry Cow. While working on what would turn out to be their swansong, Western Culture, the group witnessed a disagreement between its members. Lindsay Cooper, Georgie Born, and Tim Hodgkinson expressed that shorter vocal pieces are not representative of the band. The opposing fraction, consisting of Dagmar Krause, Fred Frith, and Chris Cutler, rented a studio with their own money, in which they recorded four tracks under the ambiguous signature of Art Bears. As a result, instrumental pieces recorded by Henry Cow, appeared on their album Western Culture, while the vocal material made it to Hopes and Fears.

Whilst Henry Cow's style is largely improvisation-based, the songs on Art Bears' debut album are far more organized and naturally shorter. The trio seeks inspiration from ancient works, in fact the release derives its title from a dialogue in Charion Sees Life, a satirical sketch by a Roman rhetorician and satirist Lucian of Samosata. Furthermore, the omnipresent eccentricity, reminiscent of Greek opera, plays an important role in the album's distinctive sound. Jazz methods are almost fully absent from Art Bears' style. Instead, the band focuses on the more song-oriented approach, which makes it easier for them to deliver their message. Neo-classical chamber music of Stravinsky, Hindemith, and Schoenberg has become a crucial element of Bears' music. A careful listener will detect influences of Eastern European folk traditions. Similarly to Henry Cow's works, Hopes And Fears is dripping with complex and intricate arrangements. Eclectic ideas, rich and elaborate musical layers, experimental musicianship, politically-charged lyrics, odd time signatures - the basic Cow ingredients are all there. And yet, the album sounds different than anything Henry Cow have produced. One might point out that comparison with Henry Cow's works is aimless, as the album was composed and recorded by the group's members. Let's not forget, however, that it was because of Frith's and Cutler's new concepts that the material from the Western Culture sessions was released on two separate albums.

Hopes and Fears opens with a cover of "On Suicide", a piece originally written by a neo-classical composer Hans Eisler, with Chris Cutler's lyrics. "The Dividing Line" starts out with an unsettling and sinister passage on Tim Hodgkinson's Farfisa organ. The track's initial mood remains present until the next song. "In Two Minds" begins with a catchy feminine folk motif, which dissolves into a more pop-sounding theme, which suggests the influence of The Who. In fact, Chris Cutler once remarked the impact that the band had on him and his contemporaries. "The Dance" owes a great deal to Eastern European folk traditions, with the interplay of Georgie Born's cello, Fred Frith's violin, and Lindsay Cooper's bassoon. "Riddle" revisits the familiar ominous passage, that first appeared on "The Dividing Line", with a similar feel that is again dark and disturbing. The album closes with "Piers", which has a menacing, and an almost ambient quality.

Art Bears' innovative, thought-provoking, and groundbreaking debut album marks a beginning of a new era for Rock In Opposition - post-Henry Cow, dark, sophisticated, and highly influenced by chamber music. Hopes and Fears is a difficult work of art that takes many listens to fully understand and comprehend. Complex, dark, demanding, fresh - these are just a few adjectives which perfectly describe the album. Recommended!

ALotOfBottle | 4/5 |


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