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HOPES AND FEARS

Art Bears

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!

Sonically speaking, you couldn't really tell if you're a Henry Cow album or on an Art Bears record. Especially given that behind Fred, Chris and Dagmar, are invited Lindsay, Tim, Georgie, Peter and Marc Hollander (Aksak). Hey!! 8O They forgot to invite Geoff Leigh. Behind the superb artwork (changed a bit from the original vinyl) and splendid ReR label booklet, Hope And Fear is definitely HC's heir, although slightly stripped down (Frith is the main composer here), as the other half of HC is only here as guests, even if they appear on most tracks, including the three bonus tracks from the ReR Cd reissue. Actually part of the tracks of this album were recorded under the Henry Cow banner. As for the rest of them, I will cite Chris Cutler: "These pieces were recorded track by track, starting with a click and the essential bass or chord parts and then adding vocals and filling in the other parts - using the studio itself as a generative medium. In general, drums were added last. This was to be the method we adopted for all future Art Bears projects". Considering most bands starts with drums, you might understand how weird or odd Art Bears may sound.

As said above the songwriting is handled mainly by Frith, and Cutler's lyrics, there is a real continuity between IPOL (rather than WC, even if WC came from the same sessions) and H&F, even if Dagmar's crazed vocals are toned down (all things remaining relative, because she remains an acquired taste), but Frith's guitar is getting wider spaces than previously as indicated by the Fripp-ian lines Terrain that followed the unusually accessible (and incredibly wild "rock") In Two Minds, these two forming a first highlight into the album. Frith's guitars are also able to be gloomy as heck in The Tube. However if you want to know how HC handles a jig, please feel free to listen to The Dance. While keeping on track with its own direction, the rest of the album slowly veers towards Piers, which is arranged in such a way that it announces what's coming up in Winter Songs. But this album could be called a lost HC album somewhere between In Praise and Western Culture, it you didn't know better.

The bonus tracks are actually adding value to an already good album and fit moderately well with H&F, especially the closing Coda piece where Blegvad and Hollander come in to add their lunacy). But first we must deal with the astounding madness of All Hail and the beat-heavy Collapse where Dagmar double tracks and dubs herself. Amazing sounds. But the real "gift" is the lengthy Coda To Man And Bo, where the tension on frith's guitar strings is so unbearable that the guitar is starting to jerk tears uncontrollable and soon enough its crying out loud over a divine three note piano and semi-thunder bass crashes (courtesy of Peter and Marc). Astounding sounds. With the addition of these bonus tracks, I can't help but give this album its fourth star, even if it Art Bear's least resembling album, in part due to the presence of almost all of Henry Cow's personel.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#23784)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 'Hopes & Fears' was recorded in 1978 and is the first record of the 'Art Bears', a band freshly created out of former Henry Cow members, Fred Frith ( who signed for the majority of the compostions), Chris Cutler (drums and lyrics) and Dagmar Krause on vocals.The other 'Henry Cow' members Georgie Born, Lindsay Cooper and Tim Hodgkinson are mentionned as guests.

There are obviously a lot of common points between the music of 'Henry Cow' and 'The Art Bears', the political-philosophical lyrics, the abstract compositions mixed with Jazz or Free-Jazz improvisations, but on the whole 'H & F' is a more stripped down affair, the songs a shorter and more focused. Most lyrics are realistic or pessimistic, depending on your point of view. The overall concept is stated in the booklett, a citation of Lucian's 'Satirical sketches' a dialogue between Charon and Hermes - Charon : "All I can see is complicated muddle - a world full of utter confusion. Their towns are like beehives in which every bee has a sting of his own and uses it against his neighbor - and some are like wasps, preying on the weaker memmbers of the community. But what are those dim shapes flying around them?" Hermes :"Hopes and fears Charon..."

Singer Dagmar Krause is strongly influenced by the German composer Hans Eisler (and his coorporation with poet-playwriter Berthold Brecht) and his wife Lotte Lenya , who had developpeed a form of 'realistic' opera singing ('Dreigroschenoper) The opening track of the record 'On suicide' is a Brecht/Eisler song. Krause's vocal style together with Frith's compositions creates often a dense and sometimes claustrophobic athmosphere like in 'Maze' or 'Riddle'. Sometimes the athmosphere reminds me the japonese 'No' theatre pieces.'The Dividing line' a Cooper composition and 'Pirate Song' and 'Labyrinth' two Hodgkinson compositions go in the same direction. The two Frith instrumentals 'Terrain' and 'Moeris Dancing' are strongly influenced by Zappa in particuler 'Uncle Meat' and the more 'lighthearted' tracks of the record. A masterpiece that needs time to be dicoverd!

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Send comments to Alucard (BETA) | Report this review (#66657)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Art Bears' debut album emerged from the same sessions that produced the brilliant Henry Cow album Western Culture, and indeed the remaining members of the last Henry Cow line up are present as guest musicians and occasional co-writers. The album was, and remains, a remarkable achievement, and had a phenomenal impact when it was first released, but with hindsight it was the first step towards an artistic vision that would only be fully realised on subsequent albums.

A number of common elements recurred throughout Art Bears discography: Chris Cutler's lyrics were indebted to Brecht and informed by an interest in the middle ages, mythology and left wing politics; Frith's music reflected his interest in assorted arcane folk traditions, which would also influence his solo career; and Dagmar interpreted their vision like an updated Lotte Lenya. The move towards relatively normal songs took some people by surprise, but on his website Cutler stresses that he and Frith had both started out in straightforward rock groups, so the desire to play short songs had always been there.

The album opens with a short version of the Brecht/Eisler song On Suicide, which Dagmar declaims over a stark cello/bassoon/clarinet arrangement. This lasts for less than 2 minutes, but effectively sets the stage for the band's subsequent career. The Dividing Line brings in the full band and a theme that is to recur throughout the album (it originated from the backing track of the Cooper composition Riddle being played at half speed) and is another sparse, Brechtian song. Joan is introduced by a searing Frith electric guitar motif and retells the story of Joan of Arc, and is one of the pieces which would not have sounded out of place on a Henry Cow album. The most remarkable song closed side 1 of the vinyl original, and at over 8 minutes long In 2 Minds was the longest track Art Bears recorded. The lyrics were inspired by Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing's book Sanity, Madness and the Family and the music alternates between a slowly strummed and slightly out of tune acoustic guitar and a rock out which recalls The Who - it's midway between Pinball Wizard and Won't Get Fooled Again, and all the more effective for being so unexpected.

The second half of the album continues in a similar vein, including two uptempo instrumental tracks (to be strictly accurate, one contains a wordless vocal by Dagmar) which would sit nicely on the Frith solo albums Gravity or Speechless - hummable, danceable but still 100% Rock In Opposition. Some of the lengthy instrumental breaks also sound like a RIO take on traditional country dancing tunes, such as the lengthy coda to The Dance - Frith playing a mournful jig over Cutler's strict tempo snare and bass drum, with Dagmar slowly chanting a counter melody in the background. Elsewhere, The Pirate Song is sung to an imaginative piano accompinament played and composed by Tim Hodgkinson, while the subsequent Labyrinth (Daedalus Lamenting) pushes Cutler's hyperactive drumming to the fore. The album closes with a brief piece about the Medieaval English poem Piers the Ploughman, with an arrangement which recalls On Suicide and which also points to the direction of Winter Songs, their next album.

Compared with what was to follow, Hopes and Fears is something of a flawed gem. There are pieces which sound more like Henry Cow or Frith solo, and the presence of additional musicians makes some of the arrangements sound comparatively cluttered (all future Art Bears releases featured only the core trio). Taken in isolation, it's one of the key albums of the Rock In Opposition movement and shows that, although Henry Cow had ground to a halt, the key members were only just beginning to realise their potential as composers and performers. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#69272)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Really, there's not much more to say that other reviewers haven't said already. But, mainly out of love for the genre, this is the second shift in this great revolving doorway that came out of Henry Cow.

I, for one, enjoy this even more as it is so much focus on composition, and by god, Dagmar absolutely is now in her element. The stripped down arrangements are magical and yet hard hitting. The Rock element is also in full swing on a few tracks, and this is why I love these performers - they do what the music calls for, regardless of expectations or prejudices.

As this (and HC) introduced me to my first taste of RIO (which I now can't get enough of!) I am still stunned every time I listen to this masterwork. The Art Bears box is worth pursing if you haven't any of these, or what the definitive mastering of the gifts from these talented individuals.

I appreciate the disclaimer that pops up when giving 5 stars on Progarchives, but I must give it the High Five!

Long live RIO in this purest form.

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Send comments to tmay102436 (BETA) | Report this review (#232571)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars This is one of the most difficult albums to listen to in my collection. And that is not a bad thing. Sometimes music should challenge the ear. While I'm not much of a fan of Dagmar Kraus (I find her vocals usually detract from the music she is singing with), I can still enjoy the underlying music. Most of the time. There is a bit too much of Kraus' Lotte Lenya impression with only guitar behind it for my taste. It is when the musicians play together that this album shines.

Just remember, pleasant sounds is not what rock in opposition is about.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#261169)
Posted Saturday, January 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars An excellent album that should not be heard by everyone and especially not on every occasion!

The debut album from Art Bears is merely a continuation of the already well established Henry Cow sound. The story goes like this - Hopes And Fears began as a Henry Cow album but the early sessions in Switzerland split the band due to some members dislike for a vast amount of song-oriented material. A compromise was reached when the members agreed upon splitting the material into two different releases. The song-oriented material was released under a new moniker, Art Bears, while the instrumental compositions would make up the final Henry Cow studio album.

This basically means that Hopes And Fears is as close to a Henry Cow record as one could ever get. Besides the fact that the band was comprised of Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and Dagmar Krause, we also get noteworthy contributions from Tim Hodgkinson, Lindsay Cooper and Georgie Born. The music is dominated by Dagmar Krause's haunting vocals and the instrumental arrangements which often remind me of the Residents due to their minimalistic approach that exists all throughout the album.

The most notable track out of this very mixed bunch comes right towards the end of side one with the 8+ minute thought-provoking suite called In Two Minds. It's difficult for me to understand how such a long composition can be almost entirely built around one chord but Art Bears completely nail that format and show that excellent music can come in all shapes and forms. Plus, the Pete Townshend-sounding guitar chords towards the chorus turn this tune into a complete masterpiece for me!

In Two Minds is an easy album to get into for beginners but it will take a while for it to expand beyond those initial stages of excitement and right into the excellent album I consider it today. There are definitely certain mood requirements for these kind of releases which make it strenuous to hear in passive receptive state. This is a perfect example of an active-listening album experience that should be an obligatory part of any Avant-Prog music collection!

***** star songs: In Two Minds (8:35) The Dance (5:08) The Pirate Song (1:10)

**** star songs: On Suicide (1:26) The Dividing Line (4:13) Joan (3:07) Maze (5:15) Terrain (3:54) The Tube (3:02) Labyrinth (2:20) Riddle (2:50) Moeris, Dancing (5:20) Piers (2:10)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#320804)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I didn't always think highly of this album, but time has caused it to grow on me. The various phases of this extended lineup - from Henry Cow to Slapp Happy/Henry Cow to Art Bears to News from Babel to...is in large part one of continual progress. Henry Cow was a great band, but that incarnation was only the beginning. The songwriting here is more mature, less "scatter-brained" than your typical Henry Cow affair (minus Western Culture, which was written around the same time) - all of the diverse elements of jazz, folk, rock, and chamber music are still present, but they are employed towards writing interesting music, where Henry Cow would sometimes lose itself in a jumble of brief, interchangeable jam sessions that were complex but ultimately uninteresting.

This record is rather uninviting to initial listening for several reasons. The first is the RIO love of atonality and dissonance; the second is the sparse instrumentation, compared with the busy approach of traditional progressive rock and previous efforts by the band; the third is the fact that the instruments were recorded in the studio at separate times and before the songs themselves were completed, so the pieces were composed without an initial cohesion between all of the members. Nevertheless, not all music has to be warm and fuzzy, and if you penetrate the austere veneer, there are a couple songs that are strikingly emotional (On Suicide and Piers being my favorites).

The record is not without flaws. There is one track in particular, In Two Minds, that I see as an utter failure. Everything is bad about it - it drags, its melodies are overwrought and pretentious, its lyrics are laughable (and you thought LIving in the Heart of the Beast was stupid...). It tries to pick things up with a Who-sounding piano bridge, but Dagmar's voice is just not suited to what is going on at all - her acrobatics come off as desperate, and she can't hold the song together. Some fine instrumental work near the end does come close to salvaging it. This is the album's only real low point - other flaws in the record are rather minor (such as the lyrics to "Joan," which sound like something off the worst 80's metal cheese - yuck).

Other than those minor pitfalls, this is for the most part great stuff. It's still not as good as News from Babel, nor the Cutler/Krause/Glandien collaboration, Domestic Stories, but it's certainly a league above the early RIO of the 70's.

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Send comments to 1791 Overture (BETA) | Report this review (#644609)
Posted Friday, March 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars What can I say about this record? The setting is perfect; the intention is clear (or in this case obscure); the whereabouts are well known; the where? is the mystery. I had to suffer like hell to overcome the horrible "arty" voice of Dagmar Krauze to enjoy the astounding environment this guys had painted. One perfect case of first image association with later criteria. The voice-less/music; as the art-cover is austere, dimmly lit promising all kinds of thrills that in time will be delivered. So;. it is hard to review an astounding musical effort when one of its elements is organically rejected by my own body and the other half not... ( That is one of the main reasons I turned towards electronic-prog; they rarely sing over there; less have Main Vocalist!) Art Bears: "Hopes and Fears" is the perfect 4 Star album for people who are not pissed off with this kind of impossing type of singing; and also like early obscure post-Henry Cow; Frith. Hodgson or Cutler efforts. I wish I was one! But I can´t!....If you have a karaoke player 3.5; if you are like me; 3... towards; "how would it have sounded in an only instrumental environment?..... Great!; I, suppose. Not being the case... 3 bottom stars.

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Send comments to admireArt (BETA) | Report this review (#975401)
Posted Monday, June 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Just as Henry Cow's In Praise of Learning is part of a symbiotic pair with the more Slapp Happy-focused Desperate Straights, so too is the first Art Bears album a symbiote with Henry Cow's Western Culture.

Specifically, during the recording sessions for a followup to In Praise of Learning, it was clear that the band members no longer saw eye to eye, with some wanting to refine their complex instrumental work whilst others wanted to apply their avant-garde techniques to song-oriented material. The instrumentals were tinkered with further and eventually emerged as Western Culture; the songs were bequeathed to the Art Bears as a sort of inheritance and came out as Hopes and Fears.

For my part, whilst I consider Western Culture to be the pinnacle of Henry Cow's accomplishments, I think Hopes and Fears is equally good, so I'm glad the band decided to develop in both directions even if it led to the disintegration of the Cow as a single unit. Opening with a little Brecht (On Suicide), the Bears reveal themselves to have excellent instincts when it comes to refining the abrasive avant-garde ideas developed by Henry Cow into the basis for songs, and there's more melody here too.

I feel that Henry Cow often spent too much time being weird for weird's sake, often going so far as to deliberately shun anything melodic or attractive or approachable as compromising their vision (this tendency seemed to reach its peak on In Praise of Learning), whereas the Art Bears see no reason to limit the tools available to them, taking the best of the avant-garde and the mainstream alike. Ultimately, this results in pieces which are at once more accessible than Henry Cow's work yet, at the same time, also manage to be just as revolutionary in their own way.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#993719)
Posted Tuesday, July 09, 2013 | Review Permalink

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