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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

4.32 | 1424 ratings
HOT RATS
Zappa, Frank
4.32 | 820 ratings
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Zappa, Frank
4.31 | 843 ratings
THE GRAND WAZOO
Zappa, Frank
4.60 | 43 ratings
TAIGA
OOIOO
4.34 | 162 ratings
IN EXTREMIS
Thinking Plague
4.30 | 263 ratings
SING TO GOD
Cardiacs
4.44 | 69 ratings
N║ 6
Present
4.31 | 206 ratings
WESTERN CULTURE
Henry Cow
4.46 | 57 ratings
H─XAN
Art Zoyd
4.28 | 294 ratings
UZED
Univers Zero
4.25 | 351 ratings
CHOIRS OF THE EYE
Kayo Dot
4.26 | 255 ratings
HERESIE
Univers Zero
4.39 | 69 ratings
BOOK M
Secret Chiefs 3
4.32 | 100 ratings
ON LAND AND IN THE SEA
Cardiacs
4.25 | 257 ratings
M┼LTID
Samla Mammas Manna
4.36 | 71 ratings
DECEIT
This Heat
4.62 | 28 ratings
JACKSON
Korekyojin
4.50 | 37 ratings
LETTERS HOME
News From Babel
4.23 | 226 ratings
A LITTLE MAN AND A HOUSE AND THE WHOLE WORLD WINDOW
Cardiacs
4.27 | 120 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

LETTERS HOME
News From Babel
PLAGUE MASS
Galas, Diamanda
THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS
French TV
SECONDE ERE
Xaal

Latest RIO/Avant-Prog Music Reviews


 Putting Off Death by CHEER-ACCIDENT album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.28 | 19 ratings

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Putting Off Death
Cheer-Accident RIO/Avant-Prog

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

5 stars I don't know how I've put off knowing this band for so long but finally I am here and I am in the fold! These artists are geniuses: avant/RIO musicians who create interesting, melodic, and engaging very engaging music while still definitely in contrast or defiance of mainstream rock and even prog. I will even go so far as to proclaim it a crime for any person, old or young, who calls themselves a fan of progressive rock music to not like the music of this band! One look at the lineup of musicians and the range of musical instruments represented--and they are all used prominently but not all at once--and you know you're in for a ride.

1. "Language Is" (11:24) Piano and male voice with some bassa nd drums in the chorus sections over the first four minutes, this alone is but at 3:40 there occurs a quite aggressive bursting forth of an entire Broadway/"West Side Story"-like full-band support--which turns into a rackus instrumental section, which then morphs into an almost meditative SAMUEL BARBER-like section before slide guitar, drums, bouncy piano, and horns take over in a neat jazzy-CHICAGO-like sound. Very engaging. Love the polyrhythmic weaves of the rhythm section. Staccato hits of the horns and moog take the lead over the piano and drums until piano is replaced by electric guitar chords and the horns by radio/television static--which persists into what sounds like garbled, mangled tapes. Great song! (9/10)

2. "Immanence" (4:12) opens with a piano-led rhythm and melody similar to an early BILLY JOEL song, only repeated in an almost minimalist way. Sung start to finish by a female vocalist (Carmen Armillas?) who just happens to have one of those nearly perfect, warm yet crystal-clear voices like Heather FINDLAY (MOSTLY AUTUMN, MANTRA VEGA, solo), this song sucks one in from the first note and never lets you go. It even gets one laughing (if you listen to the words). A tough song to get out of your head once you've heard it. Awesome. (9.5/10)

3. "Wishful Breathing" (3:45) opens as a jazzy little instrumental, drums bass and intentionally cheesy organ. A John Lennon "Tomorrow Never Knows"-like vocal enters for a bit before leaving the instrumentalists to go wanky into some other dimension--until the 2:45 guitar strum tries to set us back on the path of origin. Brilliant! (9.5/10)

4. "Falling World" (3:40) another song that seems to (inadvertently?) conjure up associations to THHE BEATLES' psychedelic music, as well as experimental funk bass player BILL LASWELL (8.5/10)

5. "More And Less" (3:00) I'm reminded here of Bill Laswell and Kip Hanrahan (with a little ARTO LINDSAY on voice!) during their Pangaea Records era. AWESOME work Thymme! (10/10)

6. "Lifetime Guarantee" (6:59) A little Robert Wyatt, people? That's how it opens. As it unfolds it morphs into a kind of 1960s flower child song. Then at 4:!5 it turns more into CARDIACS/ECHOLYN/Lewis Carroll mania. (9/10)

7. "Hymn" (5:11) has a BOWIE and early BRIAN ENO feel to it, lilting along almost like a children's song--as do so many of the songs here. Truly remarkable! Simple yet quirky and unpredictable. What a song to end the album-- with its brainworm melody. Even the psychedelic boat ride with Willy Wonka in the first half of the fourth minute can't suppress the joy, happiness, and elation that this song promotes. (10/10)

Total Time 38:11

I also hear so many influences from leading edge/experimental 1970s soul/R&B artists like James, Al Green, and War.

Five stars; a true masterpiece of what I consider to be truly progressive rock music. Amazing, beautiful, and so engaging and uplifting! My new favorite album of the year!

 At Last. Live by ROZ VITALIS album cover Live, 2017
4.03 | 10 ratings

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At Last. Live
Roz Vitalis RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars The Russian instrumental Avant-Prog-band Roz Vitalis have released a live album "At Last. Live" that was recorded in Saint- Petersburg in 2016. The dynamic instrumental album features Vladimir Efimov on electric guitar, Alexey Gorshkov on trumpet and acoustic guitar, Ruslan Kirillov on bass guitar, Vladislav Korotkikh on flute and low whistle, Ivan Rozmainsky on keyboards, Vladimir "Energoslon" Semenov-Tyan-Shansky on acoustic and electric guitars, and Philip "Phill" Semenov on drums.

The album includes some new material and also rearranged versions of Mother of All Rain from 'Patience of Hope' 2012, Lavoro d'Amore and Ascension Dream from 'Lavoro d'Amore' 2015. The music is melancholy and pastoral with the flute dominating at times but always overshadowed by virtuoso musicianship.

The band state that the "essential goal of the album is to explore, to expand and to emphasize Beauty." It certainly is replete with beautiful musicianship throughout with a Spiritual atmosphere. This is a melancholy symphonic album with dreamlike organic reflections.

Blurred is a soundscape of tranquillity, and Lavoro d'Amore has masterful piano and heart rendering flute. There is a glorious trumpet solo in The Hidden Man Of The Heart along with a marching drum tempo that augments the sound and an appreciative crowd applaud.

Restore Unto Me The Joy is a flute dominated piece with dreamy melodies. Ascension Dream has rippling flute and piano beauty, then the time signature changes as the drums quicken with more urgency. The trumpet cascades over with a mesmirising grace culminating in a masterful track.

Mother Of All Rain features some wonderful delicate trumpets and melodic guitar picking. This piece is more guitar driven with acoustic sounds maintaining a strong rhythm alongside heavy percussion and cymbal splashes. A heavier sound is generated but still has a consistent emotional vibe and lovely pastoral nuances. Passing Over has acoustic picking and melancholy piano scales, then it breaks into a different time signature, with an infectious keyboard solo. It builds into a strong melodic rhythmic pace and then a passage of improvisational keys and frenetic percussion lead to a soft acoustic layer. This one has the biggest crowd reaction and it completes the concert audio from Lady Club.

Passing Interlude is recorded at Sound Museum as is the next track. This has the best lead guitar solo, sounding a bit like Camel's Andrew Latimer. The warm organic soundscape is delightful. The mood swings from aggressive drums to a symphonic beauty; keyboards and ethereal synth pads. Se Camminiamo Nella Luce (Excerpt) / Thou Shalt Tread Upon The Lion And Adder is a lengthy finale to the album. It opens with tranquil flute solos and a gentle rhythm carried along waves of keyboard strings. It moves into a myriad of moods while always maintaining a lucid flow. In one section the guitars become more distorted and the drums more forceful. The dynamics of the music, the light and shade passages, ignite the overall emotions of the track. The listener is taken on a Spiritual journey that builds into a final outro of melodic grandeur.

Overall this is some of the most beautiful instrumental progressive music I have heard. The crowds sound rather small but the intimacy of the atmosphere works well. The crowd were certainly treated to some very special Roz Vitalis concerts and so will you on listening to "At Last. Live".

 Kogel Mogel by SOT album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.37 | 5 ratings

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Kogel Mogel
SOT RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars The "Kogel Mogel" dogma is: All music is to be recorded live without any overdubs". The album therefore has what the Norwegian band SOT terms "very different energy". Skjalg Reithaug plays guitars, Anders Hunstad on drums, keys, and Lars Andreas Haug plays tuba, trumpet, and all three have a stint on vocals. The lyrics are unimportant and unintelligible at times; it is the music here that paints the taspestry.

Opening with T'mmer (3:03), think Gentle Giant on acid with quirky chants of T'mmer. One may be reminded of Magma in places, at least in spirit if not execution. These Norwegian nutters are off and running with this track and then launch into Salt 3/4 (4:51) that has that trademark lead Tuba sound and a ton of lead guitar improvisations. It is clear that the band just get together and unleash what ever they feel. The music has a lot of passion and in fact the lyrics that may be nonsense in parts or Norwegian dialect, which ever one may believe while listening, it works to augment the outer worldly music. Kjede Tegn (3:42) is a guitar and tuba workout. The rhythm is as fractured as other tracks and the drumming is sublime throughout. The weird lyrics enter again, as mad as Hocus Pocus by Focus. Str'salt (4:58) is a slower piece with guitar vibrations and ethereal atmospherics. The cymbals clash gently as a washed out background and then the beautiful saxophone by Grzech Piotrowski chimes in. The effect is haunting and may lull you into a trance. Ekspertgraad (2:31) is short and jumps out of your speakers with a ferocity; chaotic percussion and off kilter melodies of sax, tuba and guitar. Then a weird antithesis of jazz and out of sync RIO tempos jolt your eardrums. It's jazz but not as we know it and I like it.

Ind (3:56) has a cool riff with twanging Shadows guitar and an estranged meter. The saxophone is glorious and emotionally charged. I like how the sax keeps in time with the complex rhythms of guitar and drums. Commandore (3:19) is the tuba in a playful mood and very cool guitars and a bizarre phased vocal that may get too weird for the average listener. It does not last and the time sig changes with a tuba solo and guitar chords up the scale. The sig switches again and the lead guitar takes over with some nice riffs and melodies, then the vocals return like a lost spirit. False endings close off the tracks in style.

Byttomfot (4:33) opens with a fanfare of marching drum rolls, tuba and odd vocals. It settles into a cool guitar riff and then more fun vocals. The sig moves to a new meter and the tuba really unleashes its power over crashing guitar chords. It drags on and on with hilarious results and goes into a maddening infectious melody that you may not get out of your head.

Elma (3:22) closes proceedings with a gentler approach. The sound is unique especially with guest artists LAH / Bydgoszcz who plays clarinet, and Kala ukulele bass. It is a dreamscape of soothing sounds and a wash of tranquil tones.

Once again SOT prove music is a multi dimensional beast and the album should please those with a penchant for the unique and different RIO sound they generate. I prefer their previous two releases as they featured longer tracks that explored and defined each track with definitive innovation. This album had a lot of tracks but they were not very long and did not allow for a wider range of inventiveness. If you are desiring something as bizarre as Magma, Gong or The Cardiacs, here is your album "Kogel Mogel".

 Dromology by INNER EAR BRIGADE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.04 | 7 ratings

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Dromology
Inner Ear Brigade RIO/Avant-Prog

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

4 stars It's been five years since the wonderful Rainbro but this little gem makes the wait all worthwhile. A little heavier and more serious this time around but the compositional skill and instrumental performances have improved a notch (as if that were possible!)

1. "Dark Sleep Fortress" (6:40) opens the album with a heavier but still avant sound that is fully recognizable for people who are familiar with their previous album, Rainbro. The band is thick and tight! Forgot how much I like these horns and the voice of Melody Ferris. Nice keyboard solo and horn section work in the final two minutes. Unfortunately, the bass line here just gets too old--not enough movement and variation. (8/10)

2. "Black And White Taste" (5:56) avant in a math rock almost THINKING PLAGUE way. Almost feels like a study in whole-band (even vocal) weave using odd time signatures. I have to admit that I don't like it when Melody's voice is used in this way. Great bass, sax, and electric piano work. (8/10)

3. "Shaman Coin Toss" (6:51) nice opening with lots of fast-paced whole-band movement. Almost HAIRCUT ONE HUNDRED energy here. Melody's voice brings us back to solid ground (in a good way) before the horns and fast- play and changes take us in other directions--many! And moving so fast! This is fun! The 1960s Bay Area-style electric solo is unfortunate; turns me off. Piano section is nice, simple, a surprising twist--coupled with a softer side of Melody. FROGG CAF╔ comes to mind here. As with some of the previous album, the mid-song tempo and stylistic changes are a bit mystifying. Still, a pretty amazing composition. (9/10)

4. "Bobotut" (6:12) bouncy, upbeat multi-thread weave with instrument-like vocals mirrored by sax and other horns throughout. Part NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA, part Astrud & JoŃo Gilberto. Gorgeous! Maybe my favorite song on the album! (9.5/10)

5. "Dromology" (8:55) love the winding rondo weave of the separated horns on this with Melody's long drawn out singing notes. (9/10)

6. "Targa Floria" (4:22) horns, repeated electric guitar riff, and Fender Rhodes-like keys fill the opening before the horn section starts doing its magic in several weaves. This is all multi-layered instrumental jazz--a very intricate composition very tightly performed. The horns in the mid-section and second half are quite nostalgic in a BURT BACHARACH-kind of way. A top three for me. (9.5/10)

7. "Birdie In The Wall" (6:57) awesome big-band kind of opening turns into a more intricate staccato weave with Melody Ferris's smooth torch song vocal playing over the top. The second section gives this almost a SWING OUT SISTER sound. I love it! Such a great, smooth song! Definitely another top three song for me. (9.5/10)

The further I get into the album I keep wondering why this wonderful bass player did what he did in the opening song.

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. There's a little feeling of the genius of HOMUNCULUS RES here.

 Psalm 6 by ROZ VITALIS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2016
3.39 | 20 ratings

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Psalm 6
Roz Vitalis RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Nice EP!

I am not an expert or in-depth-connoisseur of Roz Vitalis' music, but what I like about their sound is that it is in constant change, so you can go from experimental, avant-gard-ish tunes to symphonic moments in a blink, but always with a high quality. This time, in 2016 they released this 33-minute EP entitled "Psalm 6", divided yes, in 6 tracks that create countless atmospheres.

It opens with the title track "Psalm 6", it is actually the longest track here, first a blast of guitars and heavy sounds is spread, but later wonderfully contrasted (or complemented) by the brass section, which makes it a bit weird but awesome. After two minutes, the music vanishes and then a new structure is created; organ, bass and trumpets put a kind of funeral like sound that at the same time takes me to Balkan lands. But later there rare a lot of contrasts, some folkish tender passages made by flute and acoustic guitar. "Trattamento 1" is, on the other hand, the shortest track here. An electronic track with a calm atmosphere that will make you take a deep breath and feel relaxed.

This ambient-like sound continues with "The prophet". First it is relaxed but then somber atmospheres are created to cease the calm, a bit of tension and uncertainty are shared here, using also trumpet as a cool element. A cool example of a Roz Vitalis' experimental track. "Denial of Access" is a strange sound, first it seems to be a gentle track with friendly sounds made by piano and trumpet, and even an accordion, I think, but later some strange sounds (I assume made by keyboards as well) put some tension to the music, picturing some old horror-movies in my mind.

"Passing Over" is a longer track with classical piano and acoustic guitar creating nice atmospheres, later bass, keys and drums enter and a completely new structure is being built, but wait a minute, piano and acoustic guitar return to their original form, but now counting with the help of a wonderful flute. Some minutes lthere is a Goblin-like passage which happens to be one of my favorite moments of the album. Nice track! The last song is "Trattamento 2" which has once again classical piano notes and a soft sound; later some nice keys appear and produce new nuances, but in the end, the sound is very alike the whole track. I have to be honest; I would have loved more trumpets on the album, but in the end, it is a pretty nice and not ordinary release that I am happy to have discovered.

Enjoy it!

 Signal 9 by MIRIODOR album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.69 | 44 ratings

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Signal 9
Miriodor RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Much Quirk, Less Musical.

The most recent album by Miriodor, Signal 9, ramps up the quirk factor, but in the process loses some of the musicality that made albums like Avanti so good. There are more stops and starts, and the transitions often seem too quick, not fully thought out. Simply put, the music flows less well on this album. This is not to say that there isn't some great music here - there is. The opening track, Venin, provides a good start, and the high quirk level (or, as some reviewers call it, 'staccato' approach) on the second track ('Peinture Dans Le Coin') to a large extent constitutes its charm and musicality. But not all the tunes are so compelling, and this is generally not an album one will want to listen to all the way through very often. A lot of the tunes are shorter and less developed, snippets really, and so have less musical heft, and the contrast between tracks can be jarring. In general, in addition to the first two tracks, I like the longer ones here. 'Portrait-robot' (in English "Identikit", or reconstructed portrait) is the best track - starts off really heavy and crunchy, turns dark and quieter in the middle, then becomes very melodic with a baroque-like bass pattern through to its ending. That one is very musical. The last two minutes of 'Chapelle Lunaire' are also great, very musical, but the first four minutes that one must wade through to get there leave me flat. 'Secret Passage' contains some great parts too (wonderful last 3.5 minutes!), but again, not the whole thing, and some parts simply drag. The long closing track, 'Le Ventriloque Et Le Perroquet' (The Ventriloquist and the Parrot) is up there among the better tunes here too, fairly inventive with strange vocal effects and patterns, some nice minor-key fairground chord progressions, and some great dissonant interlocking guitar lines, although I find the telephone ring that accompanies the main quirky theme annoying. Indeed, many parts of this album seem intended to grate for the purpose of waking you up, or something. This would be fine if there were a good reasons to be so woken, but I find there are not enough musical sections to justify the non-musical parts. So, a mixed bag with some good music, but I would recommend other Miriodor albums before this one. I give this 6.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to (mid) 3 PA stars.

 Avanti ! by MIRIODOR album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.21 | 99 ratings

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Avanti !
Miriodor RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Excellent! One of Miriodor's best, most musical, albums.

Avanti, for me, is the album on which Miriodor shine brightest. Their quirky, complex and sometimes atonal music can seem cold and calculated, and on some other albums it leaves me a bit cold, but on Avanti it is put in the service of creating great compelling music. On this album, every track is special, the music flows really well, and I am always drawn to listen to the whole album all the way through - I can't turn it off actually. Miriodor have added guest horn players on this album too, and there are more solos on this one than most Miriodor albums, giving this album a lot more soul and warmth (even when the music is meant to be intentionally cold). The music shifts effortlessly between riff-based themes, to math-rock interlocking electric guitar patterns, fair-ground atmospheres, some really difficult time signature-based lines, and dark distortion-drenched sonic landscapes. While the album gets off to a great start with 'Envoutement' (bewitchment), the quality of the music here remains remarkably constant (high) throughout. Also, on this album, the melodies are a lot more memorable than on many other Miriodor pieces. The horn lines on the second track (Bolide Debile, or Dare Devil) for instance, are highly memorable while adding some jazzy guts to the album (as does the guest trumpet solo on this track). The fourth track ('Ecart-Type', or Standard Deviation) combines a funk shuffle beat with a punk ethos, math-rock interlocking guitar-key lines, and popcorn-like electric guitar melody that sticks in the head. Very musical. 'A determiner' (to be determined) builds quietly to great seemingly out-of-time jazz-cantebury jam before breaking into quirky electronic funk six minutes in with an excellent guest sax solo. The last two tracks (the title track, Avanti!, and Reveille-Matin, or Alarm Clock) provide some great dark atmospheric moments, with distorted guitars, quirky RIO-like runs, and Crimson-like building chord progressions. All in all a very musical and original album. This is the Miriodor album I would recommend picking up first. I give it 8.7 out of 10 on my 10-point scale. An excellent addition to any collection.

 Cobra Fakir by MIRIODOR album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.90 | 57 ratings

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Cobra Fakir
Miriodor RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Quirky and inventive, but a bit cold.

Miriodor are currently from Montreal (Canada), and perform a quirky and complex form of instrumental music. Despite their beginnings and the label attached to them here, I actually think they belong more in the 'eclectic' category than RIO or avant. While they occasionally use atonality and avant styles, their music more often involves complex lines and runs over top of fairly consistent and even normal drum beats (much more like an instrumental Gentle Giant than, say, Henry Cow). Cobra Fakir from 2013 is their second-most recent album. Not as good as the predecessor (Avanti), but better than their most recent album (Signal 9), it is a mixed bag, but contains some great music. My favourites are the title track ('Cobra Fakir'), 'Titan' (the most RIO/avant track here), and 'Speed Dating sur Mars' (the latter has a definite GG feel to it). If only the whole album had been this musical. None of the tracks here are off-putting, mind you, but many of the remaining tracks are not overly musical either. In general, the first half of the album is better than the second half, and some might find it a bit tiring to listen to all the way through. The one thing I would like to see more in Miriodor are solos - they really like to practice the tough coordinated or counter-point lines, but they don't really like to solo. There are only a few solos here, mostly short electric guitar solos. They could also explore more their jazzy-side - much of this music would lend itself well to jazz fusion, but the band seems intent on steering their music away from jazz. This is fine, but it means the music ends up feeling a bit cold. Solos would warm it up, add some soul. So, one the whole, some difficult complex quirky music - worth checking out - but could have been even better. I give this album 7.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Suburban Savages: Kore Wa! by TR-OND AND THE SUBURBAN SAVAGES album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.78 | 10 ratings

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Suburban Savages: Kore Wa!
tr-Ond and the Suburban Savages RIO/Avant-Prog

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

4 stars Formerly tr-Ond and the Suburban Savages, Kore Wa! shows this Norwegian band refining their sound into great quirky, poppy, sometimes nujazz-feeling prog. The keys to this band seem to be in the quirky synthesizer sounds and styles, exceptional bass play, solid drum play and wide diversity of song presentations (Japanese, English, instrumental, with JAGA JAGGIST, ARTHUR BROWN, Zeuhl, GENTLE GIANT, NEMO, ATOMIC APE, JOE JACKSON just a few of the styles and sounds I hear glimpses of).

1. "Fade Into Obscurity" (5:02) mid-paced jazzy rock closer to JAGA JAZZIST than JOE JACKSON with a first vocalist who sounds like the gentler side of Joe Jackson and a third who sounds like Frank Zappa! An extended albeit simple "saw" synth solo in the middle is backed by cool industrial percussion. The final third is again split between the two vocalists with some poppy "ba-ba" background vocalists. Catchy! (8.5/10) 2. "Pronk" (3:57) again, a kind of pop-Nujazz feel with odd time signatures opens with a long happy intro before some odd harmonized vocals enunciating some words in English very slowly. Creepy synth solo with cool flute runs and trills running around behind is followed by a guitar-led section. It almost sounds like Arthur Brown at the end! (8.5/10)

3. "As I Am Dying" (6:00) the opening sounds not like the Beach Boys, but... the vocal section is almost GENTLE GIANT-ish while the instrumental sections in between are very synth & organ heavy proggy. The background "aahhs" are creepy and almost comical. The song grows on you! Definitely the most proggy song on the album. The second half is great--sounding like something from a NEMO album. One of my top three. (9/10)

4. "Guzarondan" (5:29) another fave--an instrumental with some nice melodies woven together, again in the kind of Nujazz style that JAGA JAZZIST has been using for some time. (9/10)

5. "Von Two" (4:24) another song very much in the JJ Nujazz vein. Well composed and performed with some nice intricacies, nuances, shifts and melodies. The other top three. (9/10)

6. "Kore Wa!" (4:12) opens with the establishment of a rumbling bass riff that repeats pretty much throughout the song. Soon it is joined by drums keys and guitars and spoken lyrics in Japanese! Reminds me of the sci-fi B-movie soundtrack music of American band Atomic Ape! This is awesome. Even has a Zeuhl passage (tongue-in-cheek?) at the end of the third minute and into the fourth. Quite a cool song! Smiles all the way! My favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)

7. "Docteur Mago" (8:44) another excellent instrumental more on the proggy side. Nice changes and solos and precision timing and dynamic shifts. There's even a quiet interlude in the middle! And some more UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA/SHUB-NIGGURATH stuff in the second half. (8.5/10)

4.5 stars, a near masterpiece of progressive rock music.

So what's missing? I'm not sure. Perhaps it's in the repetitive nature of the Nujazz style that I sometimes loose interest. Perhaps it's in the typically restrained and unspectacular (unemotional) soloing from the instrumentalists. The vocals (are they supposed to be tongue-in-cheek/comical) are a real entertainment highlight for me. I wish every song had some.

 In Extremis by THINKING PLAGUE album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.34 | 162 ratings

BUY
In Extremis
Thinking Plague RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars In Extreme Oddity: 9/10

THINKING PLAGUE always had it rough for their unique musical style. Forming and disbanding constantly and receiving modest attention for their releases, it wasn't until the release of IN EXTREMIS in 1998 (the band had reformed just two years earlier) that they acquired (rather moderate) stardom and recognition within many avant- rock circles.

IN EXTREMIS is a difficult album to describe, even within the Avant-Prog genre. Let's begin by making one thing clear: THINKING PLAGUE is not the type of avant-garde band that is absolutely inaccessible (aka weird for the sake of weirdness). They DO sound like, uhm, identifiable music, the only catch is that everything - song structure, chord progression, vocal rhythm, etc - is absolutely unconventional and unexpected. Planned to border cacophony (creating unpredictable and eerie sounds) but not going as far as sounding bad. You can also expect EXTREME complexity and rigid structures; TP is to prog what prog is to pop. You'll hear all the time lush polyphony with constant odd time signatures shift and restless, ever-changing sections consisting of several instruments. However, THINKING PLAGUE make their intricate music flow natural - quite an accomplishment - and you won't notice its elaborate nature unless you pay attention to that.

Amusingly, the vocalist of that mad band has quite a tender voice. I ended up loving Deborah Perry as much as I love Jon Anderson. They both offer gentle, delicate and soprano (acute/high-pitched) vocals, but differently from our British friend whose vocals fit seamlessly in the joyful and mystical atmosphere of his band, Perry's performance is antithetical: her delicacy contrasts with the bustling instrumental clash that accompanies her voice. Initially, it feels odd (just like everything else in THINKING PLAGUE) but as you get used it feels more and more natural and part of the band's eccentric style. After all, it doesn't sound disjunct or like a failed stunt.

Dead Silence and Behold the Man are the first two tracks and offer Perry's vocals. They're great openers and demonstrate the band's RIOish tendencies and influences. This Weird Wind is less daring and more symphonic at some points and features male vocals but is equally a great listen. Les Etudes d'Organism is the most accessible track, offering a typical avant-prog approach to music with much more conventional songwriting and melodies. It is entirely instrumental. Maelstrom and The Aesthete returns with Perry's vocals but isn't as memorable as the first two. Lastly, Kingdom Come is a veiled critique of the hypocrisy of divinity (which is all so holy and pitiful yet created a world with suffering and damnation) with heeeeavy symphonic tendencies.

Overall, I'd say listening to IN EXTREMIS is like being an astronaut plunging in an unforeseen and utterly weird planet. Although you are familiar with the very foundational characteristics of that planet (such as, you're in that planet), pretty much everything else on it is different, unlike anything you've ever seen and known. But hey, that's the point of avant-prog, which is why I pretty confidently claim that THINKING PLAGUE is a hell of an accomplished band.

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APPENDIX Slovakia
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THE ARCHESTRA Belarus
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BOX Multi-National
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BUILD United States
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