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Henry Cow - Unrest CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



3.50 | 193 ratings

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3 stars Henry Cow's second release, Unrest, is a little harder to get into right away, as most of the well-orchestrated Jazz stylings from the first have been put on the back burner, making way for a more experimental, improvised approach to the music. The first song, ''Bitter Storm Over Ulm'', is quirky, fun and short. I have no complaints here, and it's a good start.

''Half Asleep; Half Awake'' is by far the best track on the record. The subdued Lounge Jazz piano that serves as the foundation for the affair displays some of the most beautiful playing the band ever did, and all of the other elements thrown on top never become too monotonous or pointless. It's a gorgeous track, once again showing just how musical and compositionally capable this band really was.

''Ruins'' is a little tougher to pinpoint. It is more visual, and has many pauses, breaks and sudden shifts in the music that almost makes it seem like this track was written for film. Nothing wrong with that approach, though it doesn't always hold my interest like the previous two songs did. It's clever enough, but at twelve minutes long, the music may not be quite as attention-holding as it needs to be for such a length. Still pretty good, though.

''Solemn Music''. Another short and sweet track. Brilliantly played, and full of heart.

''Linguaphonie''. If you want a reference from elsewhere for what this song is similar to, I would say some of the darkest moments off of the Disco Volante record by Mr. Bungle are the closest comparison my mind can reach at this point. If you like creepy, random, possibly unsettling Avant-Garde Rock, you'll love this track. I know I do. Somehow, despite my dislike of disjointed playing, randomness in music always pleases me when pushed over the line into the insane. I guess when I am assured that the musicians themselves aren't taking it too seriously, I am more game to appreciate this type of stuff for what it is. In this case, it's a carnival ride through hell, and quite possibly my second favorite track on the album.

''Upon Entering the Hotel Adlon''. Think Yes' ''Five Per Cent of Nothing'', only three times as pointless and five times as long. Not all that enjoyable, in my opinion, and it drags the album's value down somewhat.

''Arcades'' is the final 'short track' on the record, and again sounds directionless and bland. Two tracks like that in a row? There goes another star.

''Deluge''. The final track on Unrest, and the first half simply sounds like more of what we've been hearing, however the second half is beautiful and moody, full of long, drawn out, atmospheric keyboard chords, slowly leading into a quite nice vocal and piano section, which finishes off the album on a peaceful note.

I think had the more free-jamming style songs been better integrated amongst the more cohesive pieces, this album would have felt more balanced, however since the record is almost cut directly in half by the polar opposites being grouped together (one style of music per side), it means that the listener may be more inclined to simply skip large portions of the second half. However, I do believe that part of what this album was about was to indeed create some form of 'unrest' in the listener, and to cut the album down for these more experimental pieces would be to miss the point of it entirely. That being said, I can understand what Henry Cow were trying to do without having to particularly enjoy it.

So it's a half-and-half kind of listening experience. I think some of the weirder, freak out stuff present on this release could have been pulled off a lot better, while at the same time the more strictly composed works are some of the best the band ever did. In the same way Yes' Close to the Edge split the album rating in half for me due to the unbalanced content, so does Henry Cow's Unrest. A little too much filler clumped together in one place. It was a tough choice for me, but ultimately I give this album 3.5 stars. It's still good, but not as good as the previous release.

JLocke | 3/5 |


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