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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 ú1000 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

4.33 | 1386 ratings
HOT RATS
Zappa, Frank
4.32 | 814 ratings
THE GRAND WAZOO
Zappa, Frank
4.32 | 789 ratings
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Zappa, Frank
4.59 | 39 ratings
TAIGA
OOIOO
4.31 | 199 ratings
WESTERN CULTURE
Henry Cow
4.33 | 152 ratings
IN EXTREMIS
Thinking Plague
4.29 | 253 ratings
SING TO GOD
Cardiacs
4.47 | 55 ratings
H─XAN
Art Zoyd
4.28 | 285 ratings
UZED
Univers Zero
4.42 | 65 ratings
N║ 6
Present
4.27 | 340 ratings
CHOIRS OF THE EYE
Kayo Dot
4.41 | 64 ratings
BOOK M
Secret Chiefs 3
4.26 | 247 ratings
HERESIE
Univers Zero
4.25 | 249 ratings
M┼LTID
Samla Mammas Manna
4.32 | 95 ratings
ON LAND AND IN THE SEA
Cardiacs
4.36 | 68 ratings
DECEIT
This Heat
4.23 | 222 ratings
A LITTLE MAN AND A HOUSE AND THE WHOLE WORLD WINDOW
Cardiacs
4.27 | 116 ratings
BARBARO (MA NON TROPPO)
Present
4.49 | 34 ratings
LETTERS HOME
News From Babel
4.42 | 43 ratings
SIRENS AND SILENCES / WORK RESUMED ON THE TOWER
News From Babel

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

KILLED BY CHARITY
X-Legged Sally
THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS
French TV
GRAVITY
Frith, Fred
MYRORNAS KRIG
Myrbein

Latest RIO/Avant-Prog Music Reviews


 Trout Mask Replica by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.75 | 310 ratings

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Trout Mask Replica
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Well I assure you sir, this thing sucks (Don Van Vliet on selling a vacuum cleaner to Aldous Huxley)

Of the many albums that sit gathering dust, undisturbed in the rack yet are routinely adored by their house proud owners, it is perhaps Trout Mask Replica that best represents the disingenuous litmus test for hipster candidates of 'high' office everywhere. What's odd about its assimilation into the condemned pantheon of 'maverick genius' constructions is that it's not even a rock album at all but rather, a free jazz inspired stream of consciousness 'f.u.c.k the lot of you' diatribe that has more in common with a Cecil Taylor arranged 'To Have Done with the Judgement of god' by Antonin Artaud than an unrequited love letter to any Howling Wolf. That's hardly a picnic with your childhood sweetheart and s.h.i.t.s.u puppy of course but it's still unnerving how far removed from the predictable lumpen plod of rawk (psychedelic, blues or otherwise) this album approaches at its furthest outreaches.

And therein maybe lies the key: Most rock fans including your reviewer get rather uncomfortable when their steady diet of cyclic rhythms and anticipated releases from harmonic tension are not resolved in a timely fashion. That's probably why I heartily loathe Cecil Taylor, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, et al as such aesthetic considerations are completely irrelevant to their art. This says more about my limitations as a listener and failing to understand the stimulus to hand but all the same, I want to like this malarkey but erm....am unable. We're also habitually guilty of confusing texture with content e.g. yes, there might be a sax on Brown Sugar but that doesn't make it any closer to Jazz than rawk. The textures at play on Trout Mask Replica have lured many an unwary critic into believing that the electric slide guitars, amped bass and drums menu is consistent with a delta blues inflected psychadelicatessen and are invariably frustrated when Don and his charges steadfastly decline to serve up such a dish. The only place where texture and content are in accord is perhaps on Hair Pie Bake 1 where Beefheart's solitary soprano sax is redolent of the sort of uncharted musical landscapes of Anthony Braxton. It also explains why so few echoes of Beefheart are present in the music of his avowed wannabees, disciples and acolytes from within the republican realm of rawk like the Residents, Devo, Pere Ubu, Tom Waits, the Fall, PIL etc. The cynical among us would hazard that this is just egregious name-dropping which also lassos Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and anyone else who was considered a bit 'out there' but has crucially just died into the R'OK Corral.

The best Captain Beefheart impersonation I have ever heard is probably from Edgar Broughton circa Sing Brother Sing in 1970 but here's the rub, the unwitting approximation by a completly sh*t faced English actor Oliver Reed on Michael Aspel's chat show from 1984 comes a pretty close second. You are cordially invited to check out the 'You Tube' footage at your leisure. Tread very carefully when using 'derangement of the senses is the gateway to wisdom' as an educational tool kiddies. (The playgrounds of the US are littered with casualties on a daily basis)

Don Van Vliet's lyrics are at best, inscrutable surrealistic glossolalia and at worst, when they even approach conventional narrative form, crassly and glibly asinine:

Dachau blues, Dachau blues those poor Jews Still cryin' 'bout the burnin' back in World War Two's One mad man six million lose Down in Dachau blues, down in Dachau blues

We know that the good Captain enrolled as an art major in his youth but dropped out after less than 12 months. Draw your own conclusions if you will but thwarted artists with distinctive facial hair have never done the world many favours.

It seems that like Mark E. Smith of the Fall, the Captain ran his erstwhile Magic band circa 1969 similar to a dark satanic mill owner where dissent was treated with ridicule, physical violence and privation in no particular order. The published testimonies of band members appear to attest to the rather unpalatable conclusion that their Don was an uber controlling c.u.n.t of Mansonesque proportions. Revisionist apologists for this alleged behaviour start to sound like those clueless footie pundits defending a leg breaking tackle who posit that 'without his underlying psychopathic and sadistic nature his talent would have been thwarted by mediocrities' Try telling that to the lads when they've been neither paid or fed for their unaccredited efforts and have to play with 10 men after their captain's red card for tackling his own team. (Apologies for milking the footie metaphors a tad there)

I've also never understood why Zappa's mix is so heavily weighted in favour of Beefheart's vocal as most of these conspire to practically drown out the music and only serve to make prolonged listening a considerable chore. That's a shame as all told, there is much innovation and prescience buried in the bowels of this frankly appalling production to warrant a deeper appreciation of the creative input of the assembled Magic band.

There is some speculative evidence to suggest that the Captain refused to record his vocals using traditional headphones and therefore his delivery is commensurately out of sync with a backing he could only hear via the latency of speaker bleed. Being out of time deliberately would at least require some effort methinks? Anointed if you do, anointed if you don't. (He can't lose)

Long story short: This album doesn't belong on any Progressive Rock appreciation site. It is too far removed from such narrow evaluation criteria

 Sur Les Flots Verticaux by GAUTHIER, PATRICK album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Sur Les Flots Verticaux
Patrick Gauthier RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Very good keyboard-based Zeuhl prog from the former HELDON, MAGMA, and WIEDORJE keyboard artist. It is obvious that Patrick is an accomplished pianist and loves the Broadway vocal medium.

1. "Des pygm'es dans la ville" (6:34) I kind of happy Calypso Zuehl. (9/10)

2. "Sur les flots verticaux" (10:01) One of the greatest prog/Zeuhl 'classical' 'tudes ever written. The Coltrane, Orff and D'bussy influences are strong here. Gorgeous vocal arrangements and renderings. (10/10)

3. "Le train fant'me" (7:18) odd and unusual but hypnotic in the Zeuhl fashion, so I guess it's a success. Just . . . weird. (9/10)

4. "Odessa" (4:11) is pure classical/jazz piano soloing. Very Gershwinian. (8.5/10)

5. "Eleutheren" (8:17) is founded, unfortunately, on almost the exact same rhythm as song #3. The vocal expedition is different--more Magma and Broadway music styled (Manhattan Transfer)--though I hear monastic chant as well. Amazing "piccolo" bass play. Well performed, interestingly and creatively composed. (9/10)

6. "Zawinal" (8:26) another Broadway-esque/Manhattan Transfer-like song. Too repetitive, over-dramatic and drawn out. (7/10)

 Loon Attic by PROL AND THE PROLETARIANS, NICK album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Loon Attic
Nick Prol and The Proletarians RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by brennanyoung

4 stars After having this project on my radar for many months, in which time I tried not to give it too much attention, rather waiting to hear the finished work, nothing quite prepared me for the diversity I encounter on this collection of songs and... pieces by Nick Prol.

A huge part of the pleasure here is the excellent musicianship. A quick look at the personnel involved in this project may very well reveal some familiar names from other notable projects. The roll call alone would be enough to whet my appetite. Another is the adventurous recording and mixing, by main collaborators, bassist Ben Spees and Ian Beabout.

The playing is nonetheless loose enough to veer off into accident, or apparent accident. The ghost of Trout Mask Replica seems to haunt several pieces, and there's a real RIO-improvisational feel about some parts. As for the actual songs, just when some notion that a genre has begun to be expressed (even if ironically), completely new figures are likely to invade the ground, sometimes like jesting streakers, sometimes like viking hoards.

At these moments, the sense that 'the wheels will fall off at any moment' comes urgently, channeling the spirit of Bob Drake who even makes a kind of hallucinatory cameo at one point. I'd like to say "he was there in person" but the sound space at that moment is so outlandish that it would be impossible to say quite where "there" might be.

And then before the inevitable breakdown or runaway happens it's over, and we pass on to the next exhibit in this bewlidering cabinet of curiosities... or what is it? A menagerie? A pick-n-mix counter of thorned fruit? A frieze of grotesques? A garden of heterogeneous vignettes? What else to call it but a "Loon Attic"!

There's a lot of humour in this set. Nobody could accuse the Proletarians of taking themselves too seriously. And amongst all of the zany racket, are a good handful of really great new-wave type art-rock songs, with flavours of 10cc, XTC, Cardiacs, and many others. Some of these are as beautifully melodic as the best work by those artists, which makes the digressions into dissonance all the more awesome.

The humour does not detract in any way from the strength of the performances, the sense of adventure, and the evident attention to sonic detail. What could be a bunch of unrelated experiments seem to be working together, like circus sideshow people, apparently unaware how deliciously creepy they all are.

 Where Words Do Not Reach by OHO album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Where Words Do Not Reach
Oho RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams

— First review of this album —
4 stars A matured but fresh music compilation for over forty years, filled with speedy groove like typhoon with bright lightning. Their newest creation "Where Words Do Not Reach" released in 2015 sounds like a novel sound explosion by a young promising act, and at the same time, like a mellow but a tad mischievous musical vibration by a veteran. Yes OHO can be called as one of avantgarde / psychedelic progressive vanguards founded in mid 1970s in Baltimore, but we cannot help feeling curious why no old-fashioned nor elderly texture be around them. Their magnificent intention for grabbing innovative musical method or impressive sound structure is, and will be kept in their open mind.

It's sorta pity their playing style, simpleness of creation, or composition method could not be thought progressive (I'm afraid freaks of so-called progressive rock nowadays could not understand their innovative points of musical view indeed), but without any suspicion they ring our bells along with funny, funky, and cynical melodic logic like Zappa, that obviously should be stuffed into short song stories of theirs. Guess there are always plenty of substantial or psychological hints for their bulky, massive creativity around them, and they would have got and digested precious material smoothly and swiftly. That's the reason why they have no authentic nor legendary vein in their creation but magmatic attachment for innovation and pleasure.

Let me say OHO can be interpreted as acronyms of "originality, humanity, and opacity" (sorry for my cheep cheesy joke), and I do hope they will be active, aggressive, and anti-conservative ... maybe not only me.

 Loon Attic by PROL AND THE PROLETARIANS, NICK album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Loon Attic
Nick Prol and The Proletarians RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ProgressiveHypocrite

4 stars Good, non-pretentious art-pop. Album of the year for me thus far. It's really grabbed me; I've listened to it at least six times since purchase, and it continues to dazzle and reveal layers upon layers of inspiring awesomeness. Some of the songs seem to have an over-arching story, but whether there is a concept at work is mere speculation on my part. Great cast of musicians, including R. Stevie Moore, Bob Drake, members of the Muffins, Bent Knee, and Mercury Tree, and more! If you like Zappa, Beefheart, Cardiacs, Beatles, or XTC, or if you just like good music in general, give it a listen. You may be surprised.
 Loon Attic by PROL AND THE PROLETARIANS, NICK album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Loon Attic
Nick Prol and The Proletarians RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Nogbad_The_Bad
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars Nick Prol and The Proletarians are a very welcome addition to the wonky avant pop scene. This is the debut album from the group put together by Nick to play his particular style of catchy pop with experimental sounds, found sound and avant-prog element, along with bucket loads of humor. This is really Pop In Opposition. The songs are typically 1 to 3 minutes long with 23 on the album. This clearly reminds one of Bob Drakes style of short punchy high energy pop that doesn't stick around to overstay its welcome. Other clear influences are XTC, Mr Bungle, Cardiacs while it has a personality of its own. Clearly the rest of the band and guest musicians have also added their creative touches to make this a collaborative effort.

In addition to Nick on guitar and vocals the band is made up of saxophonist Dave Newhouse of classic avant- jazz rock group The Muffins, who has collaborated with the likes of Fred Frith and Sun Ra's Arkestra as well as bassist/multi-instrumentalist Ben Spees and drummer Connor Reilly of adroit progressive/experimental rock group, The Mercury Tree.

The guest list is a literal who's who of the avant scene, including but not limited to, Bob Drake (solo, Thinking Plague, 5uus, etc), Thymme Jones (Cheer-Accident), Moe! Staiano (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), Matt Lebofsky (Secret Chiefs 3, Mirthkon, MoeTar), Dave Willey (Thinking Plague, Hamster Theater), Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (Bent Knee), Paul Sears (The Muffins). All ably pulled together by the producers Ian Beabout & Ben Spees.

A funny, bouncy, punch peach of an album.

 Live In Poland by UBERBAND album cover Live, 2009
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live In Poland
Uberband RIO/Avant-Prog

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

— First review of this album —
4 stars I don't think that this album has really been recorded in Poland. Before the postumous HARMSTRAPPED, it was the only official release of this Californian band. Compared to that, Live In Poland is more rocking and noisy but it maintain the ZAPPAesque feel for the whole record.

The humoristic vein permeates the whole album which in any case shows the high musical skills of the members. After the Intro, the first proper song "Fu*k, I'm RIchard Marx" reminds me to GonG for the signatures, but it's also punky in some heavier parts so that I also hear hints of GREEN JELLY...not so punk, really.

"The Net" reminds to the original English punk, like SEX PISTOLS, but it can remind to CARDIACS, too. I have to confess that even if I'm on a progressive website, I like the punk rock. It's funny how the first very sexually explicit song "Yellow Vulva" starts with a swing with the intermission of 50's pop. Another characteristic of this band: mixing various genres in the same song.. which in the final part touches metal, too.

"I Am an Attorney" is simply crazy. A hard rock song with a pop bluesy middle part. Those guys can really play every kind of music. Very enjoyable like all the album. In the final it quotes a famous disco song but I'm not an expert and I can't tell which one. It could even be Herbie Hancick, who knows?

"Heinz 57 and Cocaine" is another incredibly funny song touching a number of genres. Samba, metal, post-punk,80s pop...there's a bit of everything. Not easy to describe.

The following track is entitled "Sperm". It's a story about those little cells who "die in this receptacle". It's the longest song which features a very ZAPPAesque instrumental part.

"Ballad Of The Intergalactic Hitman Underwear Fetishist" is another song full of everything. How can a poor reviewer describe a song in which the singer goes from falsetto to growl? Again, it's exetremely weel played and arranged and even if the various parts can seems disconnected, each is verry good and in the end the song doesn't have changes happening suddenly, the transitions are smooth enough.

The closer is still in this vein, Another track scoring more than 7 minutes with a bit of everything inside. Following is a quote from its lyrics, just to give an idea:

"When I get a group of people together who have a similar desire to have their behavior altered by the chemical properties of alcohol, it soon becomes clear that we'll have fun together This fun includes moving and saying certain words, yes it does"

So I strongly suggest to pay a visit to bandcamp and download both this album and their postumous HARMSTRAPPED.

Enjoy

 The Mothers Of Invention: Over-Nite Sensation by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.02 | 529 ratings

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The Mothers Of Invention: Over-Nite Sensation
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Are you ready to whip up some dragon lotion? Are you feeling just about as evil as a boogey-man can be?

If the answer to either is "yes", then you're ready to enjoy this immediately enjoyable and accessible Frank Zappa release. Over-Nite Sensation is deservedly one of Frank's most radio-friendly works, and one of his few albums you could play in the background at a party and not have people leave the room. These songs are light-hearted, fun, and have a great blend of fusion grooves and hard rockin' jams. What they are not, is impeccably composed or varied as most other Zappa music. Over-Nite Sensation will make you smile throughout, but you may not reach for it when the mood for Zappa strikes you.

That being said, anytime one of its songs comes on, you won't regret it. "Camarillo Brillo" bounces along playfully as tongue-in-cheek opener, while "I'm the Slime" drips with thick, greasy blues and monster guitar licks. Great stuff. Meanwhile, "Fifty-Fifty" and "Montana" sort of just become noise (for the former), or shoulder shrugging (for the latter). One thing that must be acknowledged though, is Over-Nite's Sensation outstanding guitar work. Frank is on his "A" game here, cranking out soloing that is frenetic, complex, and captivating. This is proverbial "mic drop" for guitar posers.

Great stuff overall, and perfect for some skewed, toe-tapping, sarcastic jamming. A worthy purchase for Zappa newcomers and fans alike, but there are even better gems of his out there to enjoy.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

 Black Light by SONAR album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.33 | 11 ratings

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Black Light
Sonar RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by dion

5 stars SONOR ARCHITECTURES SONAR is an encryption standing for "SONic ARchitecture", and their music, of an unique simplicity and magic, hypnotic and obsessive, is like defining deconstructions and reconstructions of a lost kenopsystical city resembling the paintings of deChirico. The sonar fluid embraces you and set you over with it on visual dreaming phantasms. The sound rhythmical substance, working precisely like a Swiss watch, become reductive to an essence minimalism molded with fine refinement. The two guitar players in the group formula (Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner), we could expect at a demonstration of virtuosity, at passionate fast speed dialogues with notes tighten tumultuous together as in the ubiquitous rock tradition. Backed up by Christian Kuntner (bass) and Manuel Pasquinelli (drums), the two guitar players builds up the dialogue in complementary in which each resonates together in unwonted and fascinating sound landscapes. The result is a rigorous build up symbiosis which thought to essence in complex polyphonies. The music of SONAR is a retrospection in the intuitive expressionism of Stockhausen, with stylistic nuances which can be associated with the music of Robert Fripp, Nik Bńrtsch Ronin or Steve Reich. Founded in 2010 in the underground clubs of ZŘrich, the group SONAR shapes itself an unique place in the contemporary progressive music, all their albums being downright perfect. The uncanny atmosphere streaming out of the sound, so unique but so recognizable, is maybe due as well to the way as the members of the group tune up their instruments in the three-tonic module (C / F# / C / F# / C / F#), a specific feature to be found in the primitive ? tribal or ritualistic of "Maori", "Vedic" or "Herranza" music. Simple by appearance, complex by the structure of the polyphonic layer lines which overlaps in rhythmical asymmetries, the sound product is eluding the easy ways and stereotypes of the conventional compositions. The eccentricity of the SONAR sound it's not a researched one, but an undisguised vision of the idiosyncratic sound aesthetics the members of the group share together. The last SONIC album, "Black Light" from 2015, chronological their fourth, was recorded live in the studio, without any additions at editing. This technical element of recording creates in whole an organized (oxymoronic) spontaneous state of mind, as well as an emotion of a genuine kind. "Ennergram", the tune that opens the album, lines up the generic approach of the mathematical sound of the entire album. From the very first accords touches of the "Black Light" tune, we can recognize the atmospheric influence of the "Lark's Tongues In Aspic" (King Crimson) tune, theme which SONAR group is dressing it up and takes it over to a novel sonic spatiality. Already being placed on this orbit of travelling space landscapes, the follow up "Orbit 5.7" is a melodic geometry delineating even more the rhythmic mathematics in "Enneagram". The repetitive rhythmic sequence of "Angular Momentum" is inducing a psychedelic trance. "Stri Geometry" is a melodic geometry build up on contretemps measures. The last recorded tune in the studio, "Critical Mass" is the most intricate and "nervous" tune on the album. The album wraps up with two live bonus tracks: "Twofold Covering" and "Tromsö" which rounds out and emphasize this exceptional production. Listening to the album "Black Light" is a real and surprisingly pleasant experience for which I give 5 stars without hesitation ! Daniel Ionescu
 Hoping Against Hope by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.82 | 26 ratings

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Hoping Against Hope
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars Fast forward to 2017, and Thinking Plague show no sign at all of compromising their ideals. Mike Johnson is the only person who has been there throughout, but he is steering this ship on a very clear path. The line-up now is Mike (guitar, samples, midi instruments), Mark Harris (soprano and alto saxes, B-flat standard and bass clarinets, flute), Dave Willey: (bass, drums, accordion), Elaine di Falco (voice, accordion, piano), Robin Chestnut (drums, percussion) and Bill Pohl (guitar). Now, I have come across Bill quite a few times previously, having reviewed his solo album 'Solid Earth' back in 1994, plus some other of his bands since then such as The Underground Railroad, so I was intrigued to see his involvement. He has always been a fine guitarist with a passion for music that can be somewhat different and difficult to listen to, and here is being allowed to give that full rein.

In many ways, this is a more melodic and easier album to listen to than some of their others, but that isn't to say that they have moved away from their core purpose of RIO, just that it has a slightly different flavour. There are times when the different woodwind instruments take the lead, repeating motifs, but this just allows the guitars to break in and out of the song with extremely quick runs. Elaine doesn't have the same natural other worldliness displayed by Susanne on the classic 'In This Life', but fits in perfectly with this adjusted style of music.

Thinking Plague may have changed somewhat in the intervening thirty years between these two albums, but hasn't everyone? But, they are still true to their roots and this could never be any other band. Exciting and enthralling, there really is no-one else quite like them. They will only ever appeal to a select few, but those few will be greatly enriched by hearing this.

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RIO/Avant-Prog bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
1870 (MIL OCHOCIENTOS SETENTA) Mexico
3 MICE Multi-National
5UU'S United States
THE A BAND United Kingdom
A-MUSIK Japan
A.P.A.T.T. United Kingdom
ABSOLUTE ZERO United States
AFENGINN Denmark
AFTER DINNER Japan
AFUCHE United States
AHLEUCHATISTAS United States
AHVAK Israel
AKINETËN RETARD Chile
AKSAK MABOUL Belgium
ALAMAAILMAN VASARAT Finland
ALBOTH! Switzerland
ALEX'S HAND United States
ALFIE RYNER France
ALTERED STATES Japan
AMOEBIC EMSEMBLE United States
ANATROFOBIA Italy
ANDREW MOORE'S CHAMBER WORKS United States
APPENDIX Slovakia
ARANIS Belgium
ARBETE OCH FRITID Sweden
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