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Henry Cow - Unrest CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



3.50 | 193 ratings

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3 stars Henry Cow was always a group positioned very near the event horizon where music and noise overlap, and that boundary was further blurred on the band's aptly titled 1974 album. Unrest, indeed: this is music tailor-made for sleepless nights.

Imagine a modern chamber orchestra, masquerading as a rock 'n' roll band and commissioned to improvise the score to an experimental ballet, juxtaposing oboes, clarinets, bassoons and violin against the usual array of electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. That might give you a vague idea of their sound, but I doubt it.

There are moments here, mostly during the second, more improvisational half of the album, that might leave you wondering who is more insane: the septet of players actually performing this racket, or yourself for willingly listening to it. The opener 'Bittern Storm Over Ulm' bounces forward on an awkward but not unattractive melody, in my limited experience maybe the closest the Cow ever came to a legitimate pop song. But all bets are off after that uneasy truce; check out the bizarre, pre-verbal chanting in 'Linguaphonie' for proof.

And what exactly is creating that distorted buzzing hum, in 'Ruins' and elsewhere: synthesizers? Maybe some sort of electronically fuzzed horn? I suspect it's Fred Frith, up to his usual tricks. What that man does to a guitar almost borders on abuse, god bless him.

In the end the album is easy to admire, but harder to actually least for anyone not schooled in advanced musicology. I'm not suggesting you need to be a complete brainiac to appreciate Henry Cow, but it couldn't hurt. A four-star effort with two-star popular appeal: hence my fickle three-star recommendation.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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