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Art Bears - Hopes and Fears CD (album) cover


Art Bears



3.79 | 104 ratings

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4 stars Dark, Brooding Minimalism Wages War with Joyful and Optimistic Glee

So excited to be here today! Long time coming, this'n! Art Bears is an offshoot project of three members of Avant-Rock masters Henry Cow: Fred Frith, Chris Cutler and Dagmar Krause (she also of Slapp Happy). Members from these two former bands are also featured throughout in the form of Tim Hodgkinson, Lindsay Cooper, George Born (a name I was frankly unfamiliar with) and (on other editions with bonus tracks) Peter Blegvad.

Our albums starts off in melancholy on the brief "On Suicide". Very dark, sort of classical in nature (no surprise there). It was composed by German film duo Brecht and Eisler. Starkly positioned next is "The Dividing Line", beginning with noise and clangs and a bizarro, deeply effected organ. The vocals are angular, yet not harsh. This is a rather minimal song ultimately. It's here that I take pause to remember this was released in 1978. Much like the relation that Greaves' Kew. Rhone. had for me to that year before. Up next is something more identifiably them and... more exciting really! "Joan"! The organ and the horns are in a cacophony with the drums and Dagmar's relatively sweet vocals (sweet in comparison haha). Very intense.

What follows is... quiet, but with darting reverberating Cutler-isms on "Maze". I quite like this. I can't not compare it to Frank Zappa. Angular, strange, weirdly haunting. The digital version of this track I have unusually cuts short of its full length... Too bad. Regardless. Through and through the whole of the track, though, I really can't help but think of the darkest and weirdest from, say, Uncle Meat. Very cool. Not much happens, in comparison, on the front-end of "In Two Minds". Dagmar sings over strums of acoustic guitar. Nearing halfway, all picks up with fun drums. It's like deranged Pete Townsend in my mind hahaha! Even so, acoustic guitar is the driving force. I'll always take Fred Frith in whatever mode he'll give. Things fall back down and then return to the aforementioned full-band triumph after minute 6. I think this is a song that will require patience from some. It's really quite rewarding in its overall minimalism.

In an unexpected way, what I would like to call these Uncle Meat-isms continue on the very fun, upbeat "Terrain". This is the absolute highlight thus far. Horns and strings intersect with the really lovely guitar soloing from Frith. This is followed by further minimalisms, but also just really interesting noise on "The Tube". Definitely some cool soundscape type stuff here. The past is back in more strange forms in "The Dance". And I'll take a moment to pause and sing the praises of the great Lindsay Cooper, here on bassoon (of course?). Dagmar is also using her higher vocal register here, and I love that. The middle section features some pastoral fiddling from Fred, too! Just an interesting mix of everything. Up next is the also brief "Pirate Song" with a great vocal performance over acoustic piano. Different kind of loveliness compared to the track before.

Continuing right along, we have "Labyrinth" with really unique percussion elements. I can't tell if they're electric or just... really far away haha. Either way, sounds just awesome. Another track though, percussion aside, that is ultimately super minimal and singularly focused. Synth has returned on "Riddle", featuring an eerie drone and just awesomely weird key-sh*t haha. This track is about as alien as something you might expect from Magma. Tribal and intense. Even so, can't say I've heard much quite like it before. So much to be satisfied by here. Then it's onto something that indeed is (though inexplicably) familiar! "Moeris Dancing" bounces along in joy and yet simultaneous intensity. I may take a stab at it and say this is something Eastern, generally speaking. I love the handclaps and the violin here. And then the guitar melody around minute 2... which is just plain epic! Awesome thematic music! Another surefire highlight if there ever was one. And then finally we have our closer, "Piers". This song starts with an ambient drone. This then continues throughout the whole track. Truly haunting. Helluva way to close it all out.

DangHeck | 4/5 |


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