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RIO/AVANT-PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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RIO/Avant-Prog definition

Avant-Prog

Avant-prog is an umbrella term which refers to any progressive rock artist with a strong leaning towards avant-garde and highly experimental approaches to music. Therefore, it includes the sub-genres of Rock In Opposition (see below) and Zeuhl in addition to general avant-prog artists.

Avant-prog is generally considered to be more extreme and 'difficult' than other forms of progressive rock, though these terms are naturally subjective and open to interpretation. Common elements that may or may not be displayed by specific avant-prog artists include:

- Regular use of dissonance and atonality.
- Extremely complex and unpredictable song arrangements.
- Free or experimental improvisation.
- Fusion of disparate musical genres.
- Polyrhythms and highly complex time signatures.

Most avant-prog artists are highly unique and eclectic in sound and consequently tend to resist easy comparisons. However, Frank Zappa is often cited as a major influence on many avant-prog artists due to his early adoption of avant-garde and experimental attitudes within a predominantly rock/jazz context.


Rock In Opposition

Rock In Opposition (RIO for short) is the name of a short-lived movement that has gone on to define a sub-genre of progressive rock, and which is now sometimes applied to musicians whose careers hadn't even started by the time the movement had ceased to exist in any official capacity. It is not synonymous with the term avant-prog, for whilst bands associated with RIO are (generally speaking) avant-prog in nature, most avant-prog bands are not associated with RIO.

The roots of RIO can be traced to Henry Cow, a UK progressive rock band with a distinctly avant-garde sound and left wing political ideology. Henry Cow toured extensively in Europe throughout much of the 1970s and came into contact with a few similarly inclined bands, in an ideological sense as much, if not more, than a musical one. These groups did not always have much in common stylistically, apart from a basic leaning towards fusing avant-garde qualities with elements of rock. Most of these bands were working independently at the time and had no distribution or realistic opportunity of touring outside their native countries. The idea of Rock In Opposition was to create an independent network of like-minded performers that would not be dependent on the largesse of major record companies for their survival.

Henry Cow invited four of these bands to play alongside them at the first Rock in Opposition festival on 12th March 1978, at the New London Theatre, Drury Lane in London. The British Arts Council helped the funding of the festival with a Ł1000 grant. The Rock in Opposition slogan "The music the record companies don't want you to hear" was altered very slightly for the flyer advertising the first Rock in Opposition concert.

The five initial Rock in Opposition bands were:

Henry Cow (England)
Univers Zero (Belgium)
Etron Fou Leloublan (France)
Samla Mammas Manna (Sweden)
Stormy Six (Italy)

Three additional bands were later officially elected to the movement:

Art Zoyd (France)
Art Bears (England)
Aksak Maboul (Belgium)

The involved bands had many disagreements in a meeting at Sunrise Studios in Kirchberg, Switzerland in December 1978 about the purpose of the group, and its meaning. They eventually came up with a plan to continue their joint concerts. They organised three more festivals and co-operative record distributions but eventually the RIO group dissolved. It left behind a legacy that would initially be picked up by later projects from the many musicians involved with the original movement, and later on by artists inspired by the original RIO groups. Miriodor and Ensemble Nimbus are often said to be influenced by Samla Mammas Manna, for example, and are consequently sometimes referred to as RIO bands.

Since 2007, a contemporary RIO festival has been held most years in Carmaux, France. This festival has included artists closely associated with the original RIO movement alongside bands from the wider world of avant-prog and experimental music.

Dates of the original RIO festivals

12 March 1978 at New London Theatre, Drury Lane, London, England (set up by Henry Cow)
26 April 1979 to 1 May 1979 at Teatro dell'Elfo, Milano, Italia (set up by Stormy Six)
28/29 September 1979 in Uppsala, Sweden (set up by Samla Mammas Manna)
Bruxelles, Belgium (set up by Univers Zero)

Useful links

Information on RIO from Chris Cutler's website

Additional historical information on Squidco

Written/Compiled/Edited by past and present members of the RIO/Avant-Prog team

Current team members:
as at 20/05/2016

Raffaella (Raff)
Luca (octopus-4)
Ian (Nogbad_The_Bad)
Keishiro (DamoXt7942)
Ori (frippism)

RIO/Avant-Prog Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 RIO/Avant-Prog | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.32 | 1322 ratings
HOT RATS
Zappa, Frank
4.66 | 36 ratings
TAIGA
OOIOO
4.31 | 780 ratings
THE GRAND WAZOO
Zappa, Frank
4.31 | 757 ratings
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Zappa, Frank
4.49 | 52 ratings
HÄXAN
Art Zoyd
4.33 | 148 ratings
IN EXTREMIS
Thinking Plague
4.30 | 272 ratings
UZED
Univers Zero
4.30 | 232 ratings
SING TO GOD
Cardiacs
4.45 | 59 ratings
BOOK M
Secret Chiefs 3
4.44 | 60 ratings
NO 6
Present
4.30 | 193 ratings
WESTERN CULTURE
Henry Cow
4.26 | 334 ratings
CHOIRS OF THE EYE
Kayo Dot
4.26 | 239 ratings
HERESIE
Univers Zero
4.40 | 58 ratings
DECEIT
This Heat
4.44 | 44 ratings
Гуси-Лебеди / GEESE AND SWANS
Vezhlivyj Otkaz
4.32 | 87 ratings
ON LAND AND IN THE SEA
Cardiacs
4.38 | 57 ratings
ZABRANJENO PLAKATIRATI
Buldozer
4.52 | 32 ratings
LETTERS HOME
News From Babel
4.24 | 208 ratings
A LITTLE MAN AND A HOUSE AND THE WHOLE WORLD WINDOW
Cardiacs
4.28 | 110 ratings
BARBARO (MA NON TROPPO)
Present

RIO/Avant-Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the RIO/Avant-Prog experts team

GRAVITY
Frith, Fred
ZYPRESSEN
Zypressen
LACRYMOSA (AKA BUGBEAR)
Lacrymosa
LABIRINTO D'ACQUA
Yugen

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Latest RIO/Avant-Prog Music Reviews


 A Terrible Beauty Is Born by UR KAOS album cover Studio Album, 1990
4.00 | 5 ratings

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A Terrible Beauty Is Born
Ur Kaos RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars If your into Avant music you really need to check out this Swedish band. They released three studio albums and this is their second from 1990. It clocks in at under 46 minutes over the 16 tracks. Interesting that Johan Hedren is part of this trio as he was in the amazing band KULTIVATOR before this playing keyboards. We get English vocals and there are two styles of vocals really, one that's deep and Gothic sounding and the other that is higher pitched and fragile. The lyrics were for the most part taken from Shakespeare and Aiskylos. Besides the usual instruments we get clavinet and strings and I like how the guitar, bass, clavinet and drums create the rhythm here. I did think of PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE in the way the strings and the strummed guitar are used to create the rhythm.

"Shelter" has strummed guitar as the vocals join in with the drums not far behind. Strings join in around 2 minutes making some noise. "Screen Icon" is a heavy tune with higher pitched vocals over top. "A Testimony" is a top five and it's quiet to start before an Avant soundscape arrives with vocals where the instruments don't seem to be on the same page(haha). This is all replaced by a melodic and catchy rhythm after 1 1/2 minutes. Strings only before 3 minutes as the fragile vocals return. "The Face Defaced" has a powerful sound with vocals to match as he almost speaks the lyrics with passion. A devastating sound after a minute. Lots of suspense and I like the percussion late. A top five.

I like the way "Terrible Mildness Of The Morning" starts as it has some interesting sounds that come and go. Vocals before a minute. "A Criminal View From Beyond" has more deep sounds as Avant vocals join in. "The Fire Of Time" is a top five as the rhythm of sounds builds from the start. Vocals before a minute and it sounds like fuzzed out keys 3 minutes in. "The Hearse" is my favourite. I just like how Gothic this sounds with the vocals and dark backdrop. Keys before 1 1/2 minutes.

"Repeating Icon" has these almost GENESIS-like keys that pulse(what?!). Drums, bass and vocals help out and strings arrive after a minute. "Modern Man" is a top five with that catchy rhythm and vocals. I like the drumming a lot here as well as the lyrics. Check out the instrumental work late to end it. So good! "Where Angels Fear To Tread" is 1 1/2 minutes of electronic-like sounds and more as it builds. Cool stuff. "Not Yet Crumbled" is another short track and it's catchy with vocals, heavy too. An experimental ending to this one.

"III Exerpt" opens with drums and more as it builds. Great sound! Almost spoken vocals join in before a minute. Lots of percussion after 2 minutes when the vocals stop. "The Furies" has such an interesting soundscape as most of these songs have. Some vocal melodies as well. "The Wheels" has a mid-paced rhythm with fragile vocals. Again I'm impressed at how the guitar and strings are part of the rhythm. "The Endless Laughter" ends it with intricate sounds as fragile vocals join in. When the vocals stop it becomes dark and haunting to the end.

A very consistent album that keeps me intertested and intrigued every time I spin it. That adventerous spirit is here in spades. Just a great album that Avant fans need to hear.

 Animal Cerámico by NICOTINA ES PRIMAVERA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.02 | 3 ratings

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Animal Cerámico
Nicotina Es Primavera RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars A great album made by skillfull musicians with a lot of jazz and a touch of Canterbury. Well, probably the band would disagree, but the moment when bass and drums set that strange signature on the first track "Humor Humano" reminds me the GonG of "Flute Salad". Surely having a flutist as frontman has its influence. In any case, when an unusual signature is transformed in an even more unusual one by doubling the speed of its second half it's symptom of musical genius.

Then it comes a 37 minutes suite in 3 parts. Of course it's jazzy with many improvised parts tied together by segments which at least to me appear to be carefully planned, some chaos here and there but never noisy (I'm not a fan of noise), and the third part of the suite is stupendous.

The closer, too, is very well constructed. I have the impression that even if improvised, there's a sort of strong agreement about how the track has to progress, like water in a river: there are splashes and random movements, but in the end all the water flows in the same direction.

I have liked SALES DE BANO, but this new project of the flutist Camilo ANGELES has something more. It's hard calling this "a debut album" because of the big skill and experience of the band members. This is a mature album from a bunch of excellent instrumentist lead by a great jazz composer. Not yet an absolute masterpiece but very close.

 Western Culture  by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.30 | 192 ratings

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Western Culture
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by RoyalJelly

5 stars This is not only my favorite Cow album, but a top favorite all time album. As much as I love the earlier Henry Cow albums, one still notices other influences there at times, and the long improvs can get tedious on repeated listenings, not to mention the rather strident political tone. The LP release was one side composed by Tim Hodgkinson, and side B by Lindsay Cooper. The album is perfectly conceived and structured, and apart from one Zappaesque section, doesn't sound like anyone else (not counting the bands who've emulated its sound since). The opening of Industry still blows my mind today as it did then, a vivid musical portrayal of industrial society in decay. I also find humour here, especially in Lindsay Cooper's album side...the opening is very reminiscent of Zappa's Uncle Meat, and her compositions continue in a playful vein, a great contrast to the rigid terseness of Hodgkinson's side. I've always found this to be a perfectly engineered and mixed album, as nearly all the albums done at Sunrise Studios in Switzerland that I've heard, and honestly don't hear any difference in the Remaster (assuming I've gotten that copy, but mine also has the 3 bonus tracks mentioned). If I had to recommend one RIO album, this would probably be the one (next to Univers Zero's Ceux du Dehors and the Art Bear's Winter Songs, an essential masterpiece of the genre. (Rating 5)
 Overcoming-Up by ROZ VITALIS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.42 | 11 ratings

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Overcoming-Up
Roz Vitalis RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars OVERCOMING-UP is not only a strange but positive title from the St Petersburg, Russia based ROZ VITALIS led by keyboardist Ivan Rozmainsky but is a also an anomaly in how it was released. Although this album officially came out in 2014 it was actually recorded from 2007-08 and musically fits somewhere between "Compassionizer" (2007) and "Revelator" (2011). This was a decision by Mellow Records which remains a mystery but nevertheless is placed in the history books, so who knows what strange strategies lurk in the minds of those who make these decisions. The title and mood of the album is very much about OVERCOMING, unifying and forgiving. Thus a sort of cleansing of the soul, purification and the like to create a more balanced psyche. It was designed to run the gamut of emotional responses to the trials and tribulations of life and once again features a plethora of keyboards but with this one many more experiments with them. It also features Vladislav Korotkikh debuting on the flute as well as Vladimir Semenov-Tyan- Shansky debuting on the bass but later picking up the guitar.

Right off the bat on the first title track, this release sounds more accessible and less avant-garde than previous albums but that's not to say not progressive. The bass starts off almost sort of funky and a straight forward melody gently nudges the listener to join the party. As the track continues though it does indeed start becoming jittery and firing off proggy time signatures galore with instruments starting to whiz around each other and recalcitrantly doing their own thing before finally coming together again towards the end. The same is true of the next couple of tracks that offer a more accessible and less progified approach than many ROZ VITALIS albums.

Despite ticking off the prog check list i don't think this album comes alive until track four "Serene Light" which finally turns the heat up in all departments. The melodic developments become stronger as does the song structure as a whole. The variation of keyboard sounds is unusual for the band as there are many different parades of keyboard tones and timbres bouncing off each other but it's all somehow laid out in a logical way that allows everybody to have a chance to shine for a while! However, even this track seems like a warm up for my absolute favorite track on the album "Thorns Of Forgiving" which obviously delves into the Christ complex of suffering through forgiveness and the like.

"Thorns Of Forgiving" really unleashes the full prog potential of Rozmainsky's virtuosic prowess. This track reminds of a much more caffeinated Happy The Man with a frenetic key riff opening up and then all hell breaking loose with a slow melodic bass register keyboard line keeping the melody while other keyboard riffs with different tones, timbres and timings offering a bizarre tapestry of realities. The track meanders into different moods while keeping a melodic underpinning to the whole thing. This one is progressive as hell with Bach inspired Baroque classical sounds as well as classic 70s prog outbursts. One of my favorite ROZ VITALIS tracks ever actually.

The other great track on this album is the 20 minute and 54 second prog workout "Claws Of Winter (Blizzard Paths)" which also somehow maintains a rather catchy and uncomplicated melodic flow despite all the detours into prog territory throughout its run. It starts out logically creating a melodic keyboard run but adds all kinds of percussive accompaniments, a trait that i love most about this band and how they somehow incorporate the percussion itself into the melodies. Once again i'm getting a Happy The Man type of vibe from this one but only in the main keyboard riff. Otherwise this is truly the ROZ VITALIS show with all kinds of overlapping instrumental parts that create a vast array of musical textures that flow like separate streams over each other and occasional make a rendezvous to create a cohesive whole but even when at odds are somehow connected despite the tension. This one has the most guitar parts on the album and really the only track that could rightfully be called rock music.

The final track is another decent but not outstanding track with a return to a sort of funk bass and proggy parade of keyboard parts. Unfortunately this album doesn't blow me away frankly. Unlike the majority of ROZ VITALIS albums that flow well from beginning to end, this one only heats up on track four and then has two excellent tracks which do constitute roughly one half of the album and then the remainder just seems a little underwhelming. Granted there is nothing bad on here and everything is perfectly listenable but at the end of the day i've heard too many other great albums by this band that i would much prefer to this one however the two tracks that i really like on here are excellent. This one just seems less cohesive and more like a collection of random tracks thrown together however this is the ROZ VITALIS album that features more variation in keyboard sounds than any other, so others may very well be more impressed with this than i. The title focuses on more positive emotions than other darker albums and it simply reminds me to always look at the bright side of life (Followed by Monty Python whistling! LOL)

 Psalm 6 by ROZ VITALIS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2016
4.13 | 5 ratings

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Psalm 6
Roz Vitalis RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Guillermo
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is a new release from ROZ VITALIS, a band from Saint- Petersburg, Russia. The band really sounds centered more in the keyboards playing of Ivan Rozmainsky, so I think that it is mainly his musical project. Anyway, the credits for the musical compositions and arrangements are divided among some of the contributors of this E.P.-album for most of the songs.

In their bandcamp web page this E.P. album is described as "the concept EP-album about spiritual quest and emotional upheaval of human being in a situation of strong stress. The title track and "Passing Over" are designed to be in the forthcoming studio full-length album with some adjustments. "The Prophet" is the soundtrack to the very famous opus by poet A. S. Pushkin. This album is "a wholesale artistic statement" rather than "a bunch of songs". 33 minutes of sinking into the spiritual world of human being seeking truth in the times of trouble".

After this description, I really was expecting a very "stressed", "strained" and maybe "very dark" E.P.- album, but fortunately for me this was not the case.

A song by song description from me:

"Psalm 6": a song which starts with distorted guitars, bass and drums, playing a riff in unison, plus some trumpets which play a different melody. It later changes to a quiet part with organ, trumpet and flute melodies, accompanied by some drums, bass, piano and acoustic guitar. Later, there are an electric guitar part and a keyboard solo. Apparently this song also should have included some vocals, because in their bandcamp web page there is a link for some lyrics ("Psalm 6"), which are not sung in the recording. The band plays at the end the same heavy riff that started the song.

"Trattamento 1": a song only played with atmospheric keyboards parts and an electric piano (which sounds like a Fender Rhodes). It has a bit of a New Age music influences.

"The Prophet": another song with atmospheric keyboards, a bit of bass and electric guitar, and a trumpet solo. It sounds to me a bit "reflective" in musical content. Apparently, this song also should have included vocals, because there is another link in their bandcamp web page for them (a poem by Pushkin).

"Denial of Access": it starts with a bit of piano and backing keyboards. A song only played with keyboards with a bit of "musical tension" in some parts.

"Passing Over": it starts with piano and acoustic guitar. It also includes drums, bass, flute and trumpet in other parts of the song.

"Trattamento 2": similar in musical content to "Trattamento 1" but with a different arrangement. Also with atmospheric keyboards, it also includes flute. It ends with a gong and "reflective" keyboards.

This is a very melodic album, full of keyboards parts . An E.P. which sounds to me very introspective in musical content. It maybe sounds to me with some influences from BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO with the use of the trumpet and some arrangements, and also from some New Age music and Classical music influences (with the use of some Church Organ keyboard sounds parts), plus a bit of influences from Jazz-Rock music too. As a whole, it gives to the listener some very good "introspective"and relaxing moments, and the music also shows hope and strength despite having stress in life.

I also think that this E.P. - album sounds very well to me in recording and mixing. But maybe it also sounds a bit more like a "preview" from their next album. It also does not have many instrumentation, and it sounds very well to me anyway.

 Les Espaces Inquiets by ART ZOYD album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.79 | 36 ratings

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Les Espaces Inquiets
Art Zoyd RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars ART ZOYD's fifth album is in my opinion one of their best. I'd rate it in my top five with "Haxan", "Generation Sans Futur", "Le Mariage Du Et De L'Enfer" and "Musique Pour L'Odyssee". This one clicked with me right away as the dynamic duo of Hourbette and Zaboitzeff have once again created an album that takes me to dark places which are full of adventure. Apart from the usual instruments we get cello, viola, violin, tapes, trumpet, flugelhorn, sax and vibes. This was recorded in Switzerland at Sunrise Studios back in August of 1983 and it clocks in at under 43 minutes.

"La Foret Qui Avance" is a top three and I love that they opened with such an experimental track. Check out the intro with that distortion and experimental sounds. It's eerie as strings start to come and go slicing away. Whispered voices also come and go in this creepy and scary section. In fact hair-raising might be the right description. "Ceremonie" is another top three for me. This has three main sections over it's over 9 minute length. I was actually reminded of ELP to start with the sound of that organ as it's quite powerful. You can hear the horns join in as there's lots of depth to the sound here as the rhythm almost pulses. It does settle back before 2 minutes and there's so many intricate sounds here and still plenty of depth. The piano joins in followed by strings. So much going on. Love the huge bass sounds from Zaboitzeff and also the guitar as he has it crying out 4 1/2 minutes in. So good! A change after 5 minutes as it brightens yet it's still dark and melancholic. Love this! Another change before 7 minutes as horns blast and deranged vocals speak and yell in this more stripped down section. A brilliant piece of music. "Errance" opens with laid back piano as a horn joins in crying out of the darkness over and over. It calms down even more before 3 1/2 minutes with sparse piano and horns until we get more life before 4 minutes as sounds come and go to the end.

"Cortege Des Officiels" features more of that powerful organ again bringing ELP to mind. The song feels like it's starting to take off with piano outfront but then it settles back with more organ and deep sounds. A frenzy after 3 minutes as we get an uptempo piano led melody but then it settles back again. "Au Dela Des Vallees" starts with piano as strings then horns join in. This is really good. It's building after 2 1/2 minutes as we get lots of suspense here. "Migration" is my final top three. Strings to open as piano helps out then the horns arrive droning away. There's more depth after 2 1/2 minutes as we get a piano led outburst that will come and go. There's a steady and determined sound around 4 minutes in then this cool little melody arrives that's repeated. That piano led outburst is back after 6 minutes then we get a change after 7 minutes as the organ returns with this almost buzzing soundscape. Percussion follows as the piano and more join in. Check out the blasting horns before 9 minutes. Some creepy electronics 10 1/2 minutes in as the horns continue to blast with percussion and more. An amazing track. "Le Bruit Du Fer" starts with percussion, bells and more. Horns and strings will also join in this short 3 minute closer.

I can't get enough of this stuff, they are such an adventerous band always brimming with ideas.

 Kawatteru: Changing like Myxomycetes by HIKASHU album cover Studio Album, 1996
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Kawatteru: Changing like Myxomycetes
Hikashu RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by maranx

— First review of this album —
5 stars Hikashu is very cool i lisen to the hikshus every day 22-25 hours and i can say that definitely hikashu. This albuim i like then song "pike" it is very cool i like the song pike and too the fish pike. I have seen many pike fish in my life. I live ner a a lake wehere pikes live and the pikes are cool ..: i giCVVe this album 5. satars rating because i lke hikashus and the asre cool. Hikash i hukase hiski i think very mnany thingsa are cool, lik e H I K A S H U. Too ilike the sing "peek into heaven" cool saxamone thingamasong jig. also high lite is "chimaera" vry cool chill J A Z Z I E feelingkszxs. i would like to say athat this album is 5 star hikashustarfivealbum five five five hikashu. h i k a s h u s t a r f i v e ALBUm,
 Decline and Fall by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.31 | 48 ratings

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Decline and Fall
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars It's a pretty ballsy move calling an album "Decline and Fall", especially when it's your comeback after nearly a decade has gone by without any studio work from you has come up. This followup to A History of Madness feels, to be honest, just a little lukewarm. All the usual Thinking Plague motifs are here, but somehow they add up to less than the sum of their parts, and at points it feels like the band hit on something which could be a really nice art-pop tune which they they then feel obliged to clutter up with the sort of RIOish mayhem we expect from them.

Is this the sound of a band clinging to their old sound for so long they begin to repeat themselves, or flirting with the idea of changing direction but ultimately chickening out? We can't know for sure, but what I do know is that if you have In Extremis or In This Life you don't have any need of this.

 Duck Stab / Buster & Glen by RESIDENTS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.28 | 86 ratings

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Duck Stab / Buster & Glen
The Residents RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars In principle divided into two sides - Duck Stab is side A, Buster & Glen is side B - you'd have to listen pretty carefully to work out whether there's any real logical distinction between the two halves of this bizarre little album. Mashing 14 offbeat musical outbursts into just over 35 minutes, the album ranges from almost-mainstream catchy numbers like Weight Lifting Lulu to weird goof-offs like Bach Is Dead and dissonant experiments like Electrocutioner. It's all very, very odd, but somehow compelling right to the end, and whilst I don't think I "get it" just yet, I don't think I lose anything from not getting it - I'm glad just to let it go and let the stabbed ducks waddle over me.
 Symphonie Pour Le Jour Oů Brűleront Les Cités by ART ZOYD album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.89 | 79 ratings

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Symphonie Pour Le Jour Oů Brűleront Les Cités
Art Zoyd RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The turn of the seventies witnessed formation of countless bands in Europe. It was time to part ways with worn-out hippie psychedelic and blues rock clichés - the legacy of the sixties' pop music revolution. One of such bands was Art Zoyd, formed in 1968 around Valenciennes, Nord-Pas-de-Calais - a French industrial city located just near the Belgian border. In 1971, the group released a single Sangria/Something In Love, rather conventional, presenting a heavy psych rock style with light jazz touches, stylistically very much in between early Colosseum and Spooky Tooth. The same year, the classically-trained cellist and bassist, Thierry Zaboitzeff joined. Zaboitzeff and the violinist Gérard Hourbette reformed Art Zoyd in 1975 together with Jean-Pierre Soarez and Alain Eckert. One year later, the band released their first LP Symphonie pour le Jour oů Brűleront les Cités (translating into "Symphony for the Day When the Cities Burned"), recorded just in nine days.

"Brigades Spéciales", the opening movement of the Symphonie pour le Jour oů Brűleront les Cités suite, accents its disturbing, aggressive, theatrical nature since the very first notes. Opening with a rapid viola/cello interplay, it is quickly joined by Zaboitzeff's mad screaming, recalling some moments of Magma's music. Although the rhythm becomes rather firm, the dark, ominous atmosphere remains unchanged. The music bafflingly goes from delicate Largo tempos to loud, punchy Allegro in no time, being heavy without any use of drums or percussion whatsoever. The instrumental arrangements for a thumpy bass, bright, jangly guitar, jazzy trumpet, viola and violin are very sophisticated and intricate. The style is closely related to the works of neo-classical composers such as Bartok and Stravinsky, fusing uneven time signatures and unconventional harmonic solutions with somewhat of an Easter European folk tone. At one point, the whole spectacle is ripped by a very quickly-strummed, high-pitched note on guitar, setting a very odd rhythm, which cannot stay for long, being quickly ruined by a contrasted segment with a sickening violin pattern, similar to that on Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." Towards the end, the opening motif returns with psychic screaming from Thierry Zaboitzeff. "Masques" starts in an unsafe manner with the viola on the lead, accompanied just by gentle rattle touches. The trumpet and bass guitar delicately start creeping in. A marching rhythm suddenly enters the equation, however not for long, with the movement returning to where it started - silent and scary, yet very unobtrusive. The Miles Davis-like trumpet playing style put in a rural folk scenery results in a surprisingly smooth, natural, and, most importantly, original atmosphere. The addition of wordless vocals makes it even eerier. The rapid, broken Magma-like theme comes in, building up the tension resolved on a quieter part.

"Simulancres", the last movement of the suite continued on side two, opens with a loud trumpet theme, which is quickly joined by all the other instruments, becoming very heavy and aggressive, yet very educated and calculated. The cascading instrumental layers play a prominent role in forging a distinctive sonic landscape. Although the dynamic parts of "Simulancres" are very contrasted, the movement's unique integrity remains unchanged throughout, with an "unholy" Eastern European dance rhythm as basis. The rest of the disc is occupied by a no-less fascinating politically-charged mini-epic "Deux Images de la Cité Imbécile." Opening with a fast, chaotic motif, its first movement, "Les Fourmis" takes no time to warm-up. The variation on the theme is really elaborate, putting it into different musical contexts. At one point, double choir (one voice being incredibly squeaky, the other very deep) kick in, reorganizing the sequences and showcasing the harmonic ambiguity of the opening motif - going from light and charming to sinister and oppressive. "Scenes de Carnaval's" tone thoroughly reflects the title - bringing a bustling carnival square on a busy day to mind, with its diverse, dynamic ambience. Likely more than any time before, Art Zoyd's sound is very varied. Zaboitzeff's throbbing bass is quite similar to that of Jannick Top from Magma. From the middle of the movement, the track suddenly loses its power, becoming slightly sleepy, easier to follow until the album is closed with a short, loud vocal sound.

Although quite a few comparisons to other artists have been made in this review, the sound of Art Zoyd's debut album remains unrepeated and incredibly original. Similarly to their English Rock In Opposition brothers, Henry Cow, Art Zoyd took their time before recording their debut, observing the constantly-changing music industry in constant search for the "lost chord." The judgment comes down to the listener, however, I believe this to be one of the treasures of progressive music with its classically-informed, atmospheric soundscapes owing as much to composers such as Schoenberg, Bartok, and Stravinsky, as the creative minds of Thierry Zaboitzeff and Co.

A few years later, Art Zoyd re-recorded Symphonie pour le Jour oů Brűleront les Cités in a different, broader line-up, offering tastier instrumentation as well as superior recording quality. However, the quality of the music remains equally magnificent, not influencing my regard of the album anyhow. Essential listening to anybody exploring Rock In Opposition!

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