Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Mizu ga honô wo tsukamu made” ****

Recorded 2000



The earliest sign of recorded collaboration between these two giants of Japanese avant-garde go back to Keiji Haino’s guest appearance on Musica Transonic’s “Gashô keshin”, also known as “Incubation”.  This was in 1997, and little at that time indicated that the shock of titans, mediated by Makoto Kawabata and Asahito Nanjo was anything more than accidental. 


Instinctively, Yoshida’s topological drumming technique should not sit comfortably with radical mood swings that Haino had been infusing with quanta of kinetic energy for nearly three decades.  And yet, when the legends met again in 2000, sparks flew. 


Whereas in other duet formats, Yoshida tends to dominate the proceedings thanks to his intuitively mathematical memory, in his collaboration with Haino, the distribution of outcomes suggests equal repartition of rights and duties.  Despite moments of premeditated asynchrony, the musicians achieve a measure of multi-climactic exaltation.  They never seek full symbiosis, but nor are they content with mere cohabitation.  Instead, we witness metathesis and occasional cross-mutation of ideas.  And what does bring these very different souls together is the essentially haptic nature of their musical practice. 


In the trio format, their collaborations are more than the sum of the three.  Haino’s gitara picaresca transfers the center of gravity, turning the polymetric Gordian knots into veritable jewels of avant-rock.  As Knead, they were joined by bassist Hisashi Sasaki, formerly of Ruins.  On Sanhedolin, Sasaki was replaced by Mitsuru Nasuno. 


As a duo, Haino and Yoshida often go beyond the electric assault and roam unplugged, bringing back the memories of itinerant troubadours, equipped with acoustic string and membrane instruments from Hindustani, Bengali and Berber traditions.


Please note that the record described here, originally published in Hong Kong, is also known under English and Cantonese titles: “Until Water Grasps Flame” and “Deng shui zhua dao huo wei zhi”, respectively.


Yoi sareru wa seishinbunseki no chimayoi

Thunderclaps of blitz guitar crash in before Yoshida’s multi-directional impetus disturbs the distant discharges and drag the guitar distortion much closer into an echo-less, closed space.  Haino’s axe transforms his a-melodic shrapnels into heavily infused, compressed, pyroxenic seams.  It is Yoshida’s feet that rule here, jabbing the low-pitched drums with determined rolls.  His busy cymbal work is disactivated whenever the guitar fizz evaporates.


Nadaraka na shiyôgo no ketsui

A very different duo of the same pair of hands.  Haino appears first on a wonderfully sentimental Mughal sarod.  Yoshida joins the misty sunset scene on darbouka.  Haino’s irreverent glissandos turn his sarod into a mantric oasis of short cycles, but his hedonistic style will take a while before accelerating.  Yoshida handles a multi-effect Korg X5D, here in liquid bass role, but with a trousseau full of other percussive sounds: glockenspiels, cog rattles and flexatones.  As the effects accumulate, the atmosphere becomes very dense.  The clamor of the electro-bass has almost distracted us from Haino’s riffing race to nirvana. 


Yokka to yutta to tan

A more familiar setting of chuckling jazz guitar and brushed percussion.  Haino, who had played with Derek Bailey four years before, hesitates here between the master’s non-speculative anti-documentarism and a peculiar stutter perfected by Davey Williams.  Although Haino does sound less angular and more rounded than either, he does not fall into the full-bodied, leathery nostalgia of his duets with Loren Mazzacane Connors.  Or perhaps, Yoshida just would not allow him to.  The track progresses by fits and starts, with aptly mobile drumwork evolving in parallel, and never in competition with the guitar.  This is rock improvisation for jazz sounds.  In the dry, clipped “rock” context, Haino’s sound is closer to Sonny Sharrock’s than Eddy Marron’s.  After another swell of nonmetric drum patterns, Haino desists again, contenting himself to punctuating Yoshida’s most defining beats.  Eventually, an eruption does arrive, embodied in higher riffing gear and more constructive buttressing from the drumkit. 


5Hz e no kansha no in

Here Haino picks up guembri, a three string lute of Berber origin.  He will exploit the instrument’s vascular, hollow sound with restrained, kindly pentatonic plucking.  Yoshida’s skin rumble is perfectly adjusted, color-wise.  The duo achieves a tribal asabiyya even before Haino hurls his first howl.  Yoshida’s bass drum rejoins, balancing the contributions adequately.  Soft drum rolls coarsen whenever Haino’s howling masks the delicate articulation on guembri.


Setten wo yowayowashiku shite shimau itteki

High pitched, wailing notes from Haino’s guitar are quickly corrected by Yoshida’s multiplicative drumming.  Henceforth, Haino is reduced to playing some combinations of quarter notes and 8ths, with irregularly interposed rests.  Their junctures create unexpected filling effects. 


Tokku ni kanatte iru hazu no LHNZ to iu kekka na no ni

Haino is credited here as playing “gothan”, a low-resonance string instrument of unusual tuning.  His strikes (probably plectrum) recall false, additive raga accelerations.  Yoshida operates mostly on brushes, mixed deep, but with very short reverb, and a clearly audible large tomtom on the right.  When silence falls, Haino intones an East Asian-sounding “melody” from his instrument – a slowly flourishing dance with bizarre dragon interjections and shouts.


‘Mochiron kare dake no tame’ to iiwake wo suru

Deep, tunnel-like echo buries the unlikely duo of bowed esraj and Korg X5D.  The esraj, a fretted Bengali instrument related to sarangi, gives off an eerie, heterotropic image.  No temple possesses such long-decay acoustics as applied here, but the atmosphere certainly is one of meditative concentration.  Yoshida’s clicking electro-rhythm does not distract, but the gesture of his rhythm-keeping differs radically from his physical drumming.  This is a novelty and a plus.  Later, the Korg’s bass function is switched off.  Scrapers, graters and microtonal rattling correlate nicely with an angrier accumulation of distorted meend from the esraj.  When Yoshida elicits vitruous effects from the low-end rumble, memories of classic Jon Hassell flow back. 


Owatta shôko misetagaru seimon

Although the track begins with Haino’s stammering guitar technique, so perfectly displayed on his first Aihiyô recording, it later settles into a more familiar, almost ‘jazzy’ mode.  At various intervals, the narrative sequence recurs: presentation, silence, resolution and release.


Kioku wo tadotta toki ni nankai ka atama ni ukabu akarasama to no sôiten

This is mostly Yoshida’s show.  He opens with his cocky vocal retributions, strongly in the improvised Zamla tradition, not nasal enough to be truly ‘tongue in cheek’.  The guitar sound is warm, welcoming, running scraps of medieval scales.  The drumming is unabashedly aperiodic.  When Yoshida defaults into his falsetto, Haino’s guitar veers off into a herbal, fruity terrain.  Quite unexpectedly, we are confronted with one of the more intriguing moments on this record.  From the fragrant orchard emerges an attempt at ‘melody’.  Granted, it is a mere “attempt”, but sustained as a perennial promise, not frustrated by an abstract collapse or a cacophonic break-out.  Instead, the promise is being subsidized with a conclusive dialogue between the two musicians, each caressing his miraculously sonic object.


Sabetsu to mitomerareta anna fun’inki

A duo of two darboukas.  Haino does well by not trying to compete with the world’s best drummer, but nor does he fall into non-pitched melodism of his percussion solos.  Rather his fingers nimbly send hurricanes across the darbouka’s membrane, keeping up with the vertiginous pace posited by the master.  Yoshida’s excitement is noticeable when his trademark vocalizing fuses with nonsensical glossolalia.  They rush through these minutes, barely touching the ground. 


‘Masaka’ to omotta toki no naka ni fukumareru  natsukashisa wa nan paasento?

The record culminates here with over 12 minutes of determined guitar and drum mayhem, not unlike Fushitsusha’s mid-period volcanism.  Chord progressions repeat but each time at different length.  Some guitar incisions sound almost groovy (or is Haino poking fun at Kurihara?).  The drumming is also more obviously ‘rock’: Yoshida’s avalanches of irreversible tremors are nothing short of impressive.  He perfects his craft whenever Haino’s riffing goes free.  And when Haino returns to his staccatos, Yoshida’s drumming suddenly becomes regularized.  It is Yoshida who takes the lead to pull the duo each time off the edge of repetition.  Haino’s anthemic moments are short-lived.  His guitar suffocates with a mere droplet of fuzzing pathos.  Then a brief, abstract section follows, filled by drumming in search of perfect architecture.  But it is a riff galore that will end the track.


Kiete yuku kono yôna kanashimi hô

Haino meows surreptitiously to Yoshida’s Korg and an astonishingly simple meter.  As if unaware, a detuned string instrument (banjo?) rambles on with a corrugated effect.  There are surprises – the Korg imitates tabla’s left-hand drum with a deeper, variable pitch.  The ‘banjo’ melodically shadows the polyrhythm.  Haino swoons into monosyllabic chanting, peaking mid-phrase (here’s the regularity) and varying the release (here’s lack thereof).  




For a bold listener in search of avant-rock improvisation, there are excellent moments on each of the recordings listed below.  My favorites remain 1 and 2.  I have never heard position 4.  Material on 7 and 8 partly overlaps. 


1. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Mizu ga honô wo tsukamu made” (2000)

2. KNEAD: “Tokete shimaeru shiyawase mo.  Melting Happiness” (2001)

3. KNEAD: “Knead” (2002)

4. Keiji HAINO, Tatsuya YOSHIDA, Mitsuru NATSUNO, BUS RATCH: “Live at Cafe Independants” (2004)

5. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “New Rap” (2005)

6. SANHEDOLIN: “Majoicchi wa mukô” (2005)

7. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Uhrfasudhasdd” (2007)

8. Keiji HAINO & Tatsuya YOSHIDA: “Hauenfiomiume” (2008)

Published in: on September 7, 2008 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Special feature: HENRY COW’s bootlegs

On a very irregular basis, Sonic Asymmetry will devote a posting to a review of an entire series of recordings of historical significance.  This time, a chunk of cyberspace goes to Henry Cow’s elusive, unofficial documents.



Looking back in history, one can identify several tipping points that durably changed the nature of musical creation.  Those who operated at these inflection points not only enriched musical imagery and hugely expanded future artists’ perceptual map.  They also influenced the audiences’ musical memory and, as a consequence, created an entirely new set of auditory expectations.  Pierre Schaeffer’s 1948 lectures played such a role in concrète and electronic music, privileging radical changes in aural perception.  Ornette Coleman’s collective improvisation, immortalized in December 1960 had the most potent impact on human capacity to capture the power of spontaneous intersubjectivity.  In the process, Coleman pushed the jazz world into cognitive dissonance for at least five years.


In the broadly-defined rock format, such a tipping point was reached when several British musicians coalesced their revolutionary visions into the extraordinary story of Henry Cow.


By the time the band surfaced with official recordings, the musical axial age (1968-72) was already over.  But the uniquely creative atmosphere that prevailed during those years undoubtedly planted the seeds that eventually generated some of the most consistently refreshing archives of musical creativity – both composed and improvised.  Zürich’s Rec Rec Katalog stated in the mid-1980s: “Mit einer unglaublich radikalen Konsequenz zeigten sie uns, wie die künstlich gestzten Grenzen in der Musik durchbrochen warden können – und sie gingen mit diesem Bewusstsein bis zum Extrem.  Ihre Musik ist auch heute noch hörenswert und bestitzt für die Entwicklung der progresiven englischen Musikszene exemplarsichen Wert“.  Over twenty years later, nothing has happened to invalidate these opinions.


This year we celebrate 30 years since Henry Cow disbanded and 40 years since the group’s creation.  It is an excellent opportunity to review the less-known, unofficial recordings of the band.  In order to avoid lengthy repetitions, I first list the full names of musicians who, in various periods, appeared as more or less ‘official’ members of Henry Cow: 


·        Tim Hodgkinson – organ, alto saxophone, clarinet, piano, prepared piano, electric piano, Hawaiian guitar, percussion, vocal

·        Fred Frith – guitar, violin, viola, xylophone, piano, bass, vocal

·        Andy Spooner – harmonica

·        Rob Two – guitar

·        Joss Grahame – bass

·        Dave Atwood – drums

·        Andy Powell – bass

·        John Greaves – bass, piano, celeste, whistle, vocal

·        Martin Ditcham – drums

·        Chris Cutler – drums, percussion, radio, objects, toys, whistle, noise, trumpet, vocal

·        Geoff Leigh – tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet, recorder, vocal

·        Lindsay Cooper – bassoon, oboe, recorders, flute, soprano saxophone

·        Dagmar Krause – vocal

·        Peter Blegvad – guitar, clarinet, vocal

·        Anthony Moore – piano, tapes, electronics

·        Georgie Born – bass, cello

·        Annie-Marie Roelofs – trombone, violin






“Early Demo Tapes 1973”*****





This collection includes a number of tracks from the period immediately preceding the first LP “Leg End”.  The official album was recorded between May and June 1973, so it is probable that the titles on “Early Demo Tapes” were immortalized during the second quarter of that year.  The line-up is the same as on the first LP (Leigh/Frith/Cutler/Hodgkinson/Greaves).  The material includes three tracks from “Leg End” (“Nine Funerals for the Citizen King” appears in two different versions), as well as a nine minute long “Hold to the Zero Burn” and a short “Poglith?”, neither of which appears on official issues. 


The presence of the former track is confusing and I can barely find any similarity between this version and the only studio document of this composition – presented on Tim Hodgkinson’s CD “Each in Our Own Thoughts” (1994).  In the liner notes, Hodgkinson mentioned that it had been commonly played by Henry Cow live in 1976-77.  However, the material on “Early Demo Tapes” would mean that “Hold to the Zero Burn”, at least in its skeletal form, is much older than indicated by Hogdkinson.  If it is so, its vintage form it is much less extended (9 minutes instead of 16 minutes on “Each in Our Own Thoughts”) and lacks the lengthy intro. 


The sound quality on this bootleg is good.



“Henry Cow & Co.”******




This is one of the most interesting of these collections, even though it incorporates some tracks that are not nominally “Henry Cow”.  Three of the group’s compositions were recorded in the BBC on 24 April 1973.  This set includes the excellent “Guider Tells of Silent Airborne Machine”, which has not been released anywhere else.  The session also incorporates yet another version of “Nine Funerals for the Citizen King” and “Bee”, both known from LP “Leg End”.  The line-up is Frith/Hodgkinson/Leigh/Cutler/Greaves. 


This is followed by a medley, opening with hitherto unknown “Pidgeons”.  This is an exploration in Lol Coxhill or Scratch Orchestra-style, followed by two tracks from the side A of LP “Unrest”, but sequenced in a reverse order.  On this recording Henry Cow are Frith/Hodgkinson/Cooper/Greaves/Cutler.  It was documented on 25 April 1974, i.e. a month after the “Unrest” sessions were finalized.  The recording venue also appears different.  “Unrest” was recorded at Manor Studio, whereas the April session was taped at Langham Studio 1.


There are 10 other tracks included on this bootleg and they are all tangentially related to the history of Henry Cow.  Five of them are signed by Fred Frith in an unusual trio with Anthony Moore and Dagmar Krause, recorded on 2 December 1974.  Three excellent pieces are by John Greaves and Peter Blegvad, who are accompanied here by Anthony Moore, Tom Newman and Andy Ward (13 December 1977).  This is far superior to any other Greaves-Blegvad bootlegs I heard from the era.


And finally, an expanded Slapp Happy adds two cuts from 25 June 1974.  The usual trio of Moore-Blegvad-Krause is augmented here by Frith, Cooper, Leigh as well as Robert Wyatt and Jeff Clyne.  This is an unusual opportunity to hear Lindsay Cooper and Geoff Leigh together (the only others being “War” from November 1974, which opens LP “In Praise of Learning” and two tracks on “Desperate Straights” realized around the same time).  To the best of my knowledge, this is not the material which was destined to become Slapp Happy’s “Europa” single and John Greaves does not appear here.  The two tracks are “War is Energy Enslaved” and “Little Something”.  The latter had previously surfaced on Robert Wyatt’s collection of rarities entitled “Flotsam Jetsam”


The sound quality on this collection is superb.



“Rare Tracks Compilation”*****




The unimaginatively entitled “Rare Tracks Compilation” collects several sessions, apparently from 1974, immortalized courtesy John Peel’s Top Gear.  Snippets from the same session as above (25 April 1974) are also reproduced here.  Although the line-up is not mentioned, we can assume that it is no different from the “Unrest” quintet.


The set begins with a 14-minute track of appalling sound quality with different versions of tracks from “Unrest”.  This is followed by 59 seconds hijacked form LP “Miniatures” – Dagmar Krause’s sampled voice from an Art Bears track and skittery improvisation. 


It is worth acquiring this disc for the next four sections, none of which I am able to disambiguate in full.  First we have an excellent 3 minute interplay with saxophone to the fore and a spasmodic electric piano in tortured tremolos and clusters.  The texture of this track and Geoff Leigh’s presence indicates that this is Henry Cow circa 1973, and not 1974 as stated on the cover.  What follows is a six-minute piccolo call, shadowed by some wailing, manic voices.  Many improvisations from around 1976 used this formula for an initial take-off, and there is a female voice here, but not Dagmar.  In addition, the saxophone is again very prominent, and this type of Frith’s fuzz was unheard after 1974.  This is followed by a 5-minute long abstract extemporization in a colorful, string-based style as known from LP “Greasy Truckers”.  Since that 21-minute contribution was recorded in November 1973, I stick to my conviction that the material presented here was also taped around the same period.  The next track is 6-minutes of deep, ominous piano clusters, soprano saxophone squeals, Cutler’s scraping and Dagmar Krause’s dramatic singing.  This slab of sonic menace is probably from around 1976.  It is as close to contemporary music as Henry Cow would ever get.  Years later Tetsuo Furudate and Zbigniew Karkowski would follow that path.


These four sections – which clearly justify the purchase of “Rare Tracks” – have a sound quality ranging from very good to superb.


Unnecessarily, someone decided to fill up the remaining disc space with material which is neither rare, not stylistically compatible with what we have just heard.  First we get “Viva Pa Ubu” and “Slice”, as known from LP “Recommended Records Sampler” (1978), then a number of Art Bears’ and the Work’s songs lifted from their official singles.  Finally, there are Fred Frith’s improvised guitar-based numbers with Dagmar Krause.  This is the same material as on “Henry Cow & Co.”. 


“In the Name of Freedom”****




The collection of live recording from the 1975 tournée has been issued under the name of ‘Henry Cow featuring Robert Wyatt’ and showcases Henry Cow as a septet of Krause/Cooper/Frith/Greaves/Cutler/Hodgkinson/Wyatt.  Were it not for the less-than-perfect quality of the recordings, the triple CD collection could constitute a welcome complement to the legendary double LP “Concerts”.  The official album featured live recordings collected between September 1974 and October 1975.  This unofficial set concentrates on the concerts performed in May and June 1975.  Much of the material is similar to the official “Concerts”, but it predates the groundbreaking medley of themes that were included on side A of the double LP.  Indeed, “Concerts” were a misnomer – the breathtaking string of complexity on side A (“Beautiful as the Moon…  Terrible as the Army with Banners”) was actually recorded in BBC Studios in August 1975.  The bootleg brings two other versions of this uninterrupted sequence – one from a concert in New London Theatre (21 May 1975) and one from the photographically documented gig at Piazza Navona in Rome (27 June 1975). 


But both concerts add another medley of themes, unknown from Henry Cow’s official recordings, entitled “Muddy Mouse(s)” and subdivided into five movements: “Solar Flares”, “Muddy Mouse(b)”, “5 Black Notes and 1 White Note”, “Muddy Mouse(c)” and “Muddy Mouth”.  These are nothing more than concert versions of songs from Robert Wyatt’s LP “Ruth is Stranger than Richard”, where they appeared on side B.  This material was salvaged by Wyatt from a failed collaboration with Frith.  Frith was not happy with his own contribution to the project, but Wyatt went ahead and published it on “Ruth” – a record he was never fully satisfied with.  The main difference between the LP version and the Henry Cow’s live rendition is the presence of Lindsay Cooper on gnarly bassoon instead of Gary Windo’s bass clarinet. 


The three concerts (the third one being from Paris – Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, 8 May 1975) also replicate side B of LP “Concerts” with “Bad Alchemy” and “Little Red Riding Hood Hits the Road”.  However, “Ruins” is attached here to the suite “Beautiful as the Moon…”.  The London and Paris concerts also include long improvisations (11 minute each), which are unique.  The interplay achieved on the Paris version is particularly impressive. 


The lengthy collection ends, unexpectedly, with Kevin Ayers’s “We Did It Again”, known from Soft Machine’s first LP.  This (only) version was recorded during the encore at the Paris concert.  Apparently the band had not rehearsed this before.  If that is true, they pull it off impressively. 







This double CD comprises one disc with exactly the same material as “Early Demos” described above and one disc with the recordings made 26 March 1976 for Jazz Workshop at Nord Deutscher Rundfunk (NDR) in Hamburg.  NB, the same material is also available on another bootleg simply entitled “NDR”.  It presents yet another version of the “Beautiful As the Moon…” suite, complete with “Ruins”, but with a distinctively novel keyboard work.  The line-up is the sextet of Frith/Hodgkinson/Greaves/Cutler/Cooper/Krause. 


This live in studio document is, apparently, the last occasion to hear John Greaves with the band, as he officially had left the band on 13 March to work with Peter Blegvad on “Kew Rhone” (recorded in New York in October 1976). 


The sound quality is very good. 







Two lengthy improvisations (44 and 47 minutes, respectively) were recorded during the tour on 26 May 1976 in Trondheim, Norway.  Henry Cow apparently played there as a quartet of Frith/Cutler/Hodgkinson/Cooper.  The material is very interesting and unique, with a particular focus on acoustic piano parts and lengthy openings with flutes and piccolos.  Unfortunately, the sound quality is acceptable at best. 



 “Unknown Session”******




This is a collection of recordings made apparently during the same Scandinavian tour in May 1976.  According to the description, the band, captured live in Stockholm and Göteborg appeared as a sextet (Krause/Frith/Cutler/Hodgkinson/Born/Cooper).  There are some doubts concerning this line-up.  First, it is surprising to find here Dagmar Krause in such a magnificent form – most historians point to her absence from the tour.  Still, she clearly is present.  These would also be the earliest known recordings with Georgie Born on bass, if she really is present (?).  It is known that during the auditions she edged formidable competition from Uli Trepte and Steve Beresford.  However, I would be very surprised if she did, in fact, manage to join this tour, as purported by the description.


There are seven lengthy compositions here, one of which spans over 20 minutes.  They are radically different and more evolved than the better known fruits of the 1975 concerts.  Only on two of them can I detect familiar themes.  It also includes some of the most unusually psychedelic guitar playing from Frith.  The sound quality is very good. 


The material also includes the anthemic folk song “No More Songs”, until recently undocumented elsewhere. 



“Live in Paris, November 1977”****




Spanning two CDs, this live recording is important for being a rare opportunity to ascertain the validity of claims and counterclaims about The Orckestra – the collaboration of Henry Cow with Mike Westbrook’s Brass Band and vocalist Frankie Armstrong.  The document stems from a concert taped on 20 November 1977 at Fête du Nouveau Populaire in Paris, eight months since the beginning of this ambitious collaboration.  In addition to the sextet of Cooper/Cutler/Frith/Krause/Hodgkinson/Born, we have here Mike Westbrook (piano, euphonium), Dave Chambers (soprano and tenor saxophones), Kate Barnard (piccolo, tenor horn), Paul Rutherford (trombone and euphonium), Phil Minton (trumpet) and Frankie Armstrong (vocal).  Again, Dagmar Krause’s participation is surprising, given that she had officially “left” Henry Cow a month before. 


There are all together 11 tracks.  The music is fanfaric, uplifting and quite distinct from Henry Cow’s other material, relying predominantly on Westbrook’s compositional framework.  It is most rewarding when brass sections surge from impressionistic landscapes, prodding the entire ensemble into transformative activity that marries New Orleans marching band and lateral group improvisation.  If you are able to imagine Music Liberation Orchestra overlaying “Nirvana for Mice”, “Ruins” or “Beautiful as the Moon” you are close.  The brass section acts as a powerful enhancer, interspersed with Phil Minton’s or Paul Rutherford’s lyrical solos.  On the other hand, Frankie Armstrong’s black singing seems a little out of step with the rest of the Orckestra.  In the second half of the concert, the band also performs excerpts from Kurt Weill’s “Dreigroschen Opera”.  Both Born and Cooper would continue to collaborate with Westbrook in future.


Unfortunately, the sound quality ranges from poor to acceptable, at best.  It prevents us from adequately judging how sonically successful this notorious project was. 






This is Henry Cow with one foot in the grave, most likely stripped down to a quartet of Frith/Cutler/Hodgkinson/Cooper.  The recording was made in the Spring of 1978 in London, probably some time between its unfortunate tour of Spain (with Phil Minton) and the last series of concerts in France and Italy.  In other words, this is Henry Cow shortly after the official birth of Rock In Opposition movement (12 March 1978), which the band and Nick Hobbs championed.  The material encompasses three improvisations (21 minutes, 12 minutes and 8 minutes), as well as “Slice”, “Ruins”, material from the then upcoming LP “Western Culture” (“Industry” and “Look Back”).  Here again, the same “Recommended Records Sampler” versions of “Slice” and “Viva Pa Ubu” appear as a questionable bonus material. 


The unique improvisations capture Hodgkinson in an almost Middle Eastern mode on clarinet.  There is also a self-declared “Unreleased Number”, which is in fact an early version of Fred Frith’s “Time and a Half”, which eventually crept onto vinyl when Curlew recorded it in 1983-84 (LP “North America”). 


The sound quality ranges from poor to acceptable. 



 “Culture de l’Ouest”***




A double CD with recordings made in Lyon, France on 6 June 1978.  Most of the material is known from other versions etched onto vinyl either in January of that year, or over the following two months (July-August) at Sunrise Studio in Switzerland and published on LP “Western Culture”.  However, in addition to “On the Raft”, “Falling Away” and “Industry”, we are served here with one unique improvisation and hitherto unknown live versions of “Viva Pa Ubu” and “Slice”. 


The line-up here is Frith/Cutler/Hodgkinson/Cooper/Roelofs, augmented by a special guest – a pre-“Outside Pleasure” Henry Kaiser on guitar.  It is unclear who plays the booming bass part.  It does not seem to be Frith, unless Kaiser impersonates his style to perfection.  It could be Lindsay Cooper on “air bass”, or it could be Kaiser himself.  The poor sound quality makes it impossible tell. 


It is known that Yoshk’o Seffer also performed with Henry Cow around that time, but so far I have not found any of these recordings.


As a (superfluous) bonus, the second disc adds (again!) the original studio recordings of “Slice” and “Viva Pa Ubu” from “Recommended Record Sampler”.  We know that Georgie Born participated on one of these cuts, before her eventual departure in January 1978. 





When in the early 1990s the first CD reissues surfaced in the market, several bonuses were squeezed at the end of the original material, distracting rather than supplementing the wholeness that these deservedly legendary recordings constituted.  It was always hoped that they would reappear in full glory on a separate disc.


A long-awaited 9CD box of archival recordings and a 80-minute DVD are now expected to appear sometime this year to celebrate 40 years since Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson first thrashed it out in a noisy collaboration (apparently opening for a Pink Floyd concert).  Chris Cutler et al have seriously stretched the patience of fans who waited so long for the official versions of Henry Cow’s historic recordings.  But patience will be rewarded.  Apparently Bob Drake did a great job cleaning the archives.


According to some previews available online, the commemorative boxes will contain elements of the material included on the above-mentioned bootlegs “Ruins” and “Kaleidoscope”.  This is the perfect time to dream, and in this ideal dreamworld, my own wishes would incorporate the following historical sessions/concerts:


  • Any material of the early trio of Frith, Hodgkinson and Andy Powell (bass).  Powell is sometimes credited with exposing the founders to composer Roger Smalley’s ideas of extended composition (1970). 
  • Any material left over by Chris Cutler and Dave Stewart’s Ottawa Company, in particular their “Study for Keyboards” and Zappa pastiches (1971)
  • Any material from Robert Walker’s production of Euripides’s “The Bacchae” (1972)
  • Any material from John Chadwick’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (1973)
  • Any good quality version of “Hold to the Zero Burn” from the late 1970s. 
  • Professional quality recordings of the Orckestra (1977)


Robert Wyatt once famously quipped that Henry Cow were “the best band in the world”.  There are many things in the world that separate my own Weltanschauung from Wyatt’s.  But I do agree with him on this particular superlative.  This judgment has survived too many years unchallenged to be dismissed any time soon. 


Recorded 1974-76



Archimedes Badkar were a sizable conglomerate of highly talented Swedish musicians who enjoyed straddling the uncertain ground between European folk traditions, unjazzy improvisation and exotic panethnicity.  Although on vinyl few of their compositions extended 10 minutes, the free-flowing form of these pieces indicates that their musical adventures must have been more lengthy affairs.  


The band’s debut was recorded in a movable line-up of Per Tjernberg (keyboards), Peter Rönnberg (guitar), Matts Hellqvist (guitar and bass), Christer Bjernelind (bass), Kjell Andersson (drums), Tommy Adolfsson (trumpet), Jörgen Adolfsson (saxophone) and Pysen Eriksson (percussion).  Multi-instrumentalist Ingvar Karkoff later replaced Rönnberg, but only appeared on the second LP.  By the time Archimedes Badkar recorded its third LP, Bengt Berger and Peter Ragnarsson took responsibility for the increasingly complex polyrhythmic exoticism. 


Clearly, Archimedes Badkar fully digested the seeds planted in Sweden by Don Cherry in the early 1970s.  Despite the various influences – Balkan, Indian, or West African – the band’s unquestionable musical literacy always allowed them to maintain a sense of balance.  It remains a fresh and engaging experience over three decades later.




Förtryckets sista timme

The double LP begins with a riddle.  Ottoman-sounding lute will weave its gentle threads throughout this first piece, but we are not sure who the player is.  The original LP mentions Anita Livstrand as the officiating tambura player, but some later tracks convince us that she probably handles the droning Indian tambura, not the long-necked Iranian tambura or Yugoslav namesake derived from Turkish saz…  Whoever the virtuoso of this oud-sounding lute is does a heck of a job.  The drone ration is provided by Jörgen Alofsson on static viola.  Pysen Eriksson adds his hand drums with divagations transplanted from raga scales.  As discrete accompaniment is being procreated from an intercourse of tambourine and electric bass, the “oud” lays out uplifting, floating, quasi-improvised beadwork.  Then the viola drone and rhythmic tiles whittle down, allowing the “oud” to handle the spotlight with C-tunings.  The track picks up pace and sidewinds with Christer Bjernelind’s locked-in bass becoming more prominent.  This sublime example of damascened ethno-jazz-folk was written by Christér Bothen, one of Don Cherry’s disciples.


Efter regnet

Peter Ragnarsson on digressive tabla and Christer Bjernelind on glimmering, breezy mandola anchor the rest of the band.  Somewhat laconic and parsimonious, the viola lurks behind, overshadowed by faint, subharmonic vocalizations.  Tangential (Indian) tambura plays a very marginal role here – only occasionally pitching in a short phrase.  Throughout the piece, the sensorial and subtle timbral organization evokes the Italian band Aktuala which featured a very young Trilok Gurtu around the same time.  When violin and mandola finally intone a springtime tune, things get progressively denser, with superimposition of patterns moving in various directions. 



This sequel, recorded several months later, is a much faster acoustic guitar theme that evolves into a pleasant theme for multiple lutes and bass. 



A sprightly folk song is played on clarinet solo (Kjell Andersson) and mandolin.  After the competent intro, an unwieldy recorder and triangle add some enhancing accents. 



Sleigh bells invite us to a Nordic ride.  Polarized drone emerges from electric guitars, painting static aquarelle circles.  The bells and coppery jangle occasionally bulge from inside the drone, some generated by faster handiwork and some by dissolute pick scrapes.  At the end, only sleigh bells bid farewell.


”Charmante Yérévan” en lät från Armenien

This traditional Armenian song was arranged by Per Tjernberg and Kjell Westling of Arbete och Fritid.  Westling, who had recently recorded with Bengt Berger in Spjärnsvallet, appears here on flutes, disambiguating the melodic lines.  The remaining instruments – electric piano, mandola, acoustic piano, drum and bass – conform to the Sweden’s vintage ‘world music’ style of that era and comparisons with Arbete och Fritid cannot be easily avoided.  When Per Tjernberg’s clavinet rolls into the cusps of twists and hooks, Samla Mammas Manna’s tongue-in-cheek playfulness comes to mind as well.  There are even more references when the duo of Tommy & Jörgen Adolfsson on trumpet and saxophone takes over.  This album was recorded barely four months after Tommy Adolfsson participated in the recording of Berits Halsband’s eponymous LP.  From all this personal distraction emerges an intoxicating classic of European folk.  The candid cascade is finally cut off by the bass and electric piano.


Afreaka II

This track prepares us for the abstract sound that Jörgen Adolfsson would soon develop on Iskra’s monumental avant-garde jazz recordings, with bells, chimes, free form acoustic guitar and excursions into piano morphology.  Drumsticks hurt themselves against a metal frame, while less bruised participants embark on a timbral research of mandola and mandolin (Jörgen Adolfsson).  After a short silence, sparse scraps of isolated notes contend with hollow bamboo clacking and half-mute gongs.  Unexpectedly, acoustic guitar quilts a West African-sounding picking line, quickly falling into a groove and gaining support from an army of shakers, rattles and vibraslap.  The resulting, obsessive drumming on woodblocks (Bengt Berger) reminds me of a raucous, percussive trip on a Senegalese ferry not long ago…  Here, Archimedes Badkar engages with passion in a tribal jam, fading out all too soon.


Radio Tibet

The first question is – “is it a tuba, or is it a Tibetan trumpet”?  Recalling my own visits to Tibetan monasteries, this sounds rather quiet and unobtrusive by comparison.  Crash cymbals resonate, with long sustain before we can identify the horn sound to be (most probably) Bb bass trumpet.  It is endowed with a round, full sound – way more responsive than the long Tibetan trumpets and more easily likened to a trombone.  When Ingvar Karkoff’s electric guitar tinkers gently with reverb, he is ends up being entirely swallowed by the resulting echo.  Meanwhile, crotals shimmer fluently, ebbing and flowing in and out of focus.  The layers accumulate, impasto style – Pysen Eriksson pitches in on palo de agua and some metallic tubes send out graceful overtones.  By now Karkoff’s guitar turns into a Günter Schickert-like echo guitar, albeit sans its rock rhythm.


Tvä världar

Surprisingly, this is formed around additive rhythms on acoustic piano, reminiscent of Steve Reich’s easily recognizable style, and complete with invading horn waves.  Only mandolin’s barely tangible clipping adds a differing shade.  We have sitar and chimes with splashes of liquefied color; and a soprano saxophone sketching a melancholic line.  In a bow to systemic syncretism, the violin chips in in a more Paul Zukofsky-like manner (more active, squeezing many more notes per measure).  These claddings are carried on loops of various lengths and begin to diverge just when a straight-ahead rock drum intervenes.  Once, twice.  Then nothing.  Thrice.  Is this going to be another rock version of classical American minimalism?  L’infonie’s “Vol.33” (1970) comes to mind – the very first of many rock adaptations of Terry Riley’s most famous composition.  But Archimedes Badkar is not launching into rewriting the rules of the genre.  The band will incorporate a salient trumpet, a feeble piano and the Indian tambura forever condemned to its background role. 


Jugoslavisk dansk

This is a merry “Yugoslav” dance scored for saxophone, tambourine and solo clarinet.  With some additional ingredients from reticent acoustic piano and bass, the band spins endlessly – there so much buoyancy with just a couple measures!  We would have to wait for Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio to get a real mouthful of these Balkan hooks. 


Indisk folkmelodi och ett tema av Ingvar

Indian tambura drone translates for us the Swedish title (Indian folk melody).  Very un-Indian recorders replace subcontinental shawms and clavinet substitutes for…  well only Ingvar Karkoff would know for what.  The rhythmic framework is maintained by Moroccan bandir and tambourine.  In a fluid, conversational development, Per Tjernberg syncopates on his acoustic piano within the limits of the upbeat theme.  Archimedes Badkar perfected a thematic evolution in which melodious prayers are born from exotic percussive foam, something that this piece does very well.


Tvä hundra stolta är

The closing track is a very distinct affair, opening with non-realist cello bowing.  All the other contributions will remain contingent on this – electronic organ overtones, violin squeals and mourning.  It is a highly intense piece of improvisation zooming on a rather unusual instrumental combination.  The violin and cello will seek some classical cues, but to no avail; the exploration will remain free form.  Kjell Anderson scrapes and grates his drums but dares not to beat them.  The plaintive violin brings back the ghost of Dave Cross. 





Archimedes Badkar climaxed around the time of “II”, but their first LP is equally recommended. 


ARCHIMEDES BADKAR: “Badrock för barn i alla åldrar” (1974)



ARCHIMEDES BADKAR: “Bado kidogo” (1979)


For those who enjoy the ethno-jazz side of Archimedes Badkar, several early efforts by Bengt Berger are also worth tracking down:


RENA RAMA: “Rena Rama” (1973)

SPJÄRNSVALLET: “Spjärnsvallet” (1975)

Bengt BERGER: “Bitter Funeral Beer” (1981)

BITTER FUNERAL BEER BAND: “Live in Nürnberg“ (1984)


Jörgen Adolfsson’s Iskra developed a very different, free form style that at first approach may seem sterile.  These records do, however, reward listeners’ commitment.  You do not have to be the lover of European free jazz to enjoy them.


ISKRA: “Jazz i Sverige 1975“ 2LP (1975)

ISKRA: “Allemansrätt“ (1976-77)

ISKRA: “Besvärjelser“ (1979)


As mentioned before, Tommy Adolfsson starred on Berits Halsband’s eponymous LP.  The band’s music falls more into avant-fusion category.  It is highly rewarding and has aged very well.


BERITS HALSBAND: “Berits Halsband” (1975)


Archimedes Badkar’s extended line-up overlaps partly with the ever eclectic Arbete och Fritid and with Don Cherry’s Swedish formations.  Both will qualify for separate treatment.