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Art Bears - Winter Songs CD (album) cover


Art Bears



3.99 | 99 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Winter Songs is a much more fitting example of Art Bears music than the debut Hope And Fears is: indeed only the basic trio is present and the Henry Cow page is now turned. Apparently written arranged and recorded (and mixed) in less than two weeks, this might sound like a tour de force, but before saying, please make sure you throw an ear on this album before making a judgment. I'm saying this because I read a review or two claiming Art Bears to be "Gothic Rock". I'm not sure they heard the same album I did. Unless they think of Bauhaus or Killing Joke's incessant sonic assaults on your sanity, I really don't see Dagmar dressed as a gothic witch belting would-be opera vocals, but Art Bears is nowhere close to ether end of the Gothic rock spectrum.

Musically there are still HC links, but we've moved away from it and towards the Slapp Happy (desperate Straits), but it's clear that art Bears goes out of its way to try to annoy your ears in order to open your minds, and for that Dagmar's vocals is the perfect too, stretching from the psychotic and completely mad to the semi-cabaret-style (Dietrich-Minelli style) vocals, and never leaving you in the aural comfort zone. Of course CC and FF will do nothing to ease your ill mind and soothe your aching eardrums with their respective drumming and torturing the string of the latter's guitars (Hermit is amazing in this regard) and violin and twiddles the keys. Cutler's drumming is particularly impressive throughout the album, but in The Slave. Dagmar's vocals at the shriekiest are in the following Rats & Monkeys but somehow after the first few listens, your ears grows to accept it as "normal" (even the more "Teutonic" intonations) and the rest of the music will go down easier (or relatively easily), because YOU have progressed. Winter Songs is definitely more song oriented than Henry Cow was as Skeleton Crew or News From Babel will be.

Winter Songs is certainly a more representative Art Bears album than its predecessor and debut Hope & Fears, but personally I find it a bit bare and too raw at times. As said above, AB seems to go out of its way to destabilize their listeners, and as praise-worthy this angle on music is, it sometimes sounds artificial, as is the case here. I'll be careful about the recommendations, because this is not for everyone, but then again, if you're looking up Art Bears, you've passed a while ago the TFK-neo prog stage, so you shouldn't be all that taken aback by this. And compared to its successor, this one is a bit of top 40 easy listening album. So I won't make this essential, although more than one RIO-head would.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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