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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 ?000 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 26/10/2019

Luca (octopus-4)
Ian (Nogbad_The_Bad)
Keishiro (DamoXt7942)

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

4.34 | 1662 ratings
HOT RATS
Zappa, Frank
4.32 | 994 ratings
THE GRAND WAZOO
Zappa, Frank
4.30 | 995 ratings
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: ONE SIZE FITS ALL
Zappa, Frank
4.39 | 86 ratings
H腦AN
Art Zoyd
4.28 | 272 ratings
WESTERN CULTURE
Henry Cow
4.47 | 57 ratings
LETTERS HOME
News From Babel
4.37 | 98 ratings
DECEIT
This Heat
4.27 | 351 ratings
UZED
Univers Zero
4.36 | 95 ratings
BOOK M
Secret Chiefs 3
4.26 | 304 ratings
HERESIE
Univers Zero
4.42 | 61 ratings
SIRENS AND SILENCES / WORK RESUMED ON THE TOWER
News From Babel
4.26 | 265 ratings
A LITTLE MAN AND A HOUSE AND THE WHOLE WORLD WINDOW
Cardiacs
4.35 | 88 ratings
N?6
Present
4.30 | 131 ratings
ON LAND AND IN THE SEA
Cardiacs
4.24 | 318 ratings
SING TO GOD
Cardiacs
4.27 | 184 ratings
IN EXTREMIS
Thinking Plague
4.24 | 299 ratings
M臠TID
Samla Mammas Manna
4.22 | 384 ratings
CHOIRS OF THE EYE
Kayo Dot
4.49 | 39 ratings
JACKSON
Korekyojinn
4.28 | 112 ratings
DUCK STAB / BUSTER & GLEN
Residents, The

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

DOOR FLOOR SOMETHING WINDOW: LOOPING HOME ORCHESTRA LIVE 92-93
Hollmer, Lars
PLAGUE MASS
Gal醩, Diamanda
KNEBNAG腢JE
Pocket Orchestra
VEUILLEZ PROCEDER
Rouge Ciel

Latest RIO/Avant-Prog Music Reviews


 Furvent by GRAND SBAM, LE album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.35 | 3 ratings

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Furvent
Le Grand Sbam RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Harold Needle

5 stars I'm in love, I really am!

After the stellar debut just a year prior, Le Grand Sbam comes back with their second effort, Furvent. The ensemble has grew with two new members now, including additional female vocal, keyboards (Rhodes/Moog Little Phatty) and cimbalom, and the cimbalom is an especially prominent part of Furvent's sound, bringing tons of oriental flavour into the mix. The first time around The Grand Sbam felt to me like a cross between an avant- garde prog band with a travelling satiric theatre, whereas now it feels like a real, proper contemporary music ensemble. In any case, let me tell you: the Sbam is more Grand than it ever was!

"La trace" opens up with an endless cascade of syllabes, and that's exactly what I want! Just so... so many beautiful syllabes! Let me tell you right away: the usage of human voices on this album is out of this world. The piece starts off very dense and rapid, but you will quicly find there is quite a lot of room for quiet, atmospheric moments, which I really like. I can feel I'm in an another universe, it's so god damn immersive. Overall, the suite is very much melodic and graceful, with some neat instrumental surprises (like an up-tempo vocal jazzy run or electronic, moody, Gwyn Wurst-style part towards the end) and dramatic vocals. And the coda, oh man, the coda sends me to the moon. Fantastic, magical, hats off!

"Neph鑣h" is definitely my favourite piece on the album. It's not as massive or dense as "La trace", as it features only piano and group vocals. However, it's been stuck real hard in my head ever since I've heard if for the first time. The vocals are so lush and beautiful, I love every single voice: from high, melodic and dancy females to low, rhythmic and sarcastic males. It actually brings tears to my eyes, believe it or not. And Antoine Arnera's piano playing here, MY GOD!!!!! He's been my favourite keyboard player for a while, but what he does here is absolutely outstanding! So fast, yet so full of grace and feeling. His style is truly unique and awe-inspiring, and "Neph鑣h" is a 1000% piano killer. I literally can't overstate how much I love it. I'd actually go as far as to say that this is one of the most favourite pieces of music I've heard in my life. Stunning, ravishing, unexplainably magical. I love it, love it with all of my soul!

"Yi Yin" is the main soundgrinder of the album, divided into eight parts and taking over half of the album. The piece is... well, it's massive alright. Gargantuan even. Very experimental, written so densely, I can't fully comprehend. Packed with many different moods, from dark and gloomy creeping chamer-zeuhl combo ("Les morts vont vite" by Shub-Niggurath comes to mind) to fast, wicked avant-prog a'la U-Totem's self-titled debut. I'm especially stunned by the endless supply of ridiculously complicated rhythms - stuff you'd expect to hear on a modern/contemporary music release (which, in its own way, Furvent really is). The composition is simply outstanding, some of the most impressive rock music ever had to offer. I stare at it in awe. How can you even write this stuff?!

"Choon Choon", hahaha! After nearly an hour of musical terror the band says "farewell" to the listener with a short, simple, sweet and dancy song. Very unexpected indeed. I'm gonna be completely honest - I don't really care for the song all that much, though I see it as a sweet, little cherry on the top: a refreshing aftertaste, if you will. Lovely, lovely.

Thanks to the kind people at Dur et Doux I was actuallly able to listen to the album long before even my pre- order CD arrived, and let me tell you: I will probably remember my first listen for the end of my life, it was really special. Truly a spectacular, fresh new way of combining zeuhl, avant-prog, contemporary music and many more influences. I would like to thank the band for making this record become a part of my life. Let's hope by the next release they're gonna grow into a full-sized symphonic orchestra (or at least get a bassoon player, that would be neat)! Whatever future brings, I'm waiting furiously. Vive le Sbam!

 Furvent by GRAND SBAM, LE album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.35 | 3 ratings

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Furvent
Le Grand Sbam RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams

4 stars The world is confused with coronavirus pandemic, nationalism / populism, riot, terrorism, or so. People all over the world feel uncertain. But please爈isten to Le GRAND SBAM's second album "Furvent", and we can hear that their sound style should always be confirmed, decent and credible. Their爈atest creation "Furvent", like the debut one, features complicated rhythmic basis, Zeuhlish female voices / shouts, and stylish, unified, completely爉atured melodic avantgardism. This combination might be noisy or harsh for avantgarde haters but for us Zeuhlers it would sound like an angel爓hisper actually.

Broadly speaking, this album consists of four parts - the topnote and masterpiece "La Trace", a short one "Nephesh", a magnificent suite "Yi Yin I",燼nd a tiny epilogue "Choon Choon". Wondering why the masterpiece can absorb us ... the first shot of "La Trace" is dominant. Improvisation-like爏ound bombs are obviously deliberate and matured, and all instruments including voices, piano, bass, or percussion strictly build their rhythmic turf爑p, without any dissection nor dissonance. Cadent, modulated melodic development is also sorta treasure. This colourful appearance should grab爋ur mind. In "Nephesh" we can enjoy fascinating piano plays, that be more and more complex than of Kagel but smart and beautiful, mysteriously.?Yi Yin I" is one of the most improvisational, most experimental stuff. It's pretty of Krautrock that randomized pieces of sound are precisely燾onstructed to a brilliant musical jigsaw puzzle. Upon a burning desert ground, deep and heavy keyboard works, serious percussive voices, complex燽ut incredibly supportive percussion plays, and explosive but rigidly harmonized instrumental summaries, are kinda killer. We the listeners should be爄mmersed and intimidated all around for over 30 minutes but could feel like it wrap us up and end at a moment. The last track "Choon Choon" is very燾harming one, like samba, zamba, or tango ... as if we would listen anytime anywhere.

In conclusion, sounds like they say "There are lots of sarcastic or unexpected issues, but who cares? It's great our soundscape should maintain as it燽e". Really the second Grand Slam.

 Caress of Compassion by COMPASSIONIZER album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.46 | 13 ratings

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Caress of Compassion
Compassionizer RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Vanamonde

5 stars With their new album (the first one within the Compassionizer project) Ivan Rozmainsky and his team continue to explore new realms of the musical reality. It is an exploration in the proper sense of the word because as typical for this artist even within one composition he rarely gets stuck in one motif even happily found but always boldly proceeds his way through the limitless space of musical associations and reflections. The Whole Creation Travaileth in Pain Together, one of the best works of the album, with its feel of disturbing suspense and oriental touches inventively created by a rubab and doira opens both the album and this twisted adventure as quite consistent with its title. May be my favorite of the whole collection is 1907 with its the noble and persistent ardor and beautiful baroqueness of the melody. The music of the whole album combines fluidity and precision in expressing the richness of human moods and emotions, and by the way it is why I can easily imagine many of these compositions as a great accompanying melody for an art-house movie. It is definitely a big success of Ivan and the team and a next important step in their musical evolution.
 Roxy: The Movie by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover DVD/Video, 2015
4.55 | 26 ratings

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Roxy: The Movie
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Chicapah
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I've had the vinyl double album of this performance in heavy rotation on my turntable since it came out in the 70s. I still consider it one of the best live LPs I've ever heard. I won't go too far into the music end of things because you can just read my glowing review of it for yourself. But recently I came across the film version on Amazon Prime and, impossible as it seems, made me even more appreciative of what Frank and his band accomplished that particular night. What the record wasn't able to convey was the pure joy the musicians were exuding while playing some of the most complex material imaginable purely from memory. You'd think they were playing something akin to "Gloria" by their casual mien when, in fact, it's obvious throughout the show they're having the time of their lives. If you are of the younger set and have often wondered what all the fuss is about Mr. Zappa I highly recommend you dial this movie up soon and get ready to pick your jaw up from the floor often. No fancy light show or special effects needed for this uber-talented bunch. In my estimation there's never been anything quite like it in the history of progressive music and I'm tickled pink that it's been preserved for all time to come.
 Dawn of the Cycads by BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2008
4.00 | 5 ratings

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Dawn of the Cycads
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Heart of the Matter

4 stars This fabulous compilation was my first contact with the Birdsongs, and still remains my favourite. It's not only that each individual track contributes with its own value to the final score: besides, they were selected and sequenced conforming a fine album, and offering a superb listening experience, because the sound quality of the magnetic tape recordings included here was decisively improved, in order to match the rest of it.

The musical content is an instrumental venture into the evocation of sounds and voices of mesozoic life forms (whatever they might have sounded like, that's why tou need to be conducted by the musicians fantasy). You will find here classics from their almost unknown repertoire, including the emblematic "Ptoccata", as well as a tip to their early academic influences with "(Excerpts from) The Rite of Spring" of Igor Stravinsky.

I find the live batch less appealing, but, by the moment you get there, probably it won't matter to you.

 The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo by MR. BUNGLE album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.00 | 3 ratings

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The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo
Mr. Bungle RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The year 2020 has been not only a year of strange events on a global scale but in the world of music it has produced some unexpected returns from artists who have been absent from the scene for decades. Bands like Cirith Ungol, Psychotic Walz and Asuk Maboul have been resurrected from a suspended cryogenic state but perhaps the band i least expected to be making a comeback has to be the inimitable one of a kind act MR BUNGLE.

When i discover an all time favorite band planning a release some 20 years after they officially called it quits i always have to slap my head with a sigh thinking DON'T DO IT! I want my favorite bands who have gone down as legends to remain pure and pristine as far as quality material goes and MR BUNGLE with its three eccentric screwball concoctions released in the 90s proved to be some of the most original musical expressions ever laid down in the recording studio.

But then again during that reign in the underground MR BUNGLE was always about throwing curve balls and 21 years after the release of their last album "California," the boyz from Eureka, California have done it again! Unfortunately we don't get an album that incorporates every musical genre ever created gleefully mixed together in the most defiant and unorthodox manners.

Instead we get a re-recording of the band's very first demo released in 1986 titled THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY only this 2020 version adds a few tracks and for some reason jettisons the track "Evil Satan." Oh, and this one also officially adds the word DEMO to the title.

MR BUNGLE has always pretty much been the magic triumvirate mojo of vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Trey Spruance and bassist Trevor Dunn with other members recruited for whatever sounds were required for the job.

Unlike BUNGLE's avant-garde display of a musical encyclopedia, EASTER BUNNY goes back to the band's earliest years as a crossover thrash band with a bit of death metal and hardcore punk mixed into the overall metal therefore you can forgot about Arabic musical scales, funk, ska, doowop, surf rock, Indonesia monkey chants or any of the gazillion musical ideas mined for the three album procession.

This is a metal album from beginning to end. Along for the ride this time are Scott Ian from Anthrax as the rhythm guitarist and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo making this DEMO release sound like a very professional sounding album but i wonder why original BUNGLE drummer Jed Watts who appeared on the original EASTER BUNNY DEMO wasn't asked to rekindle the early years in this reunion moment.

After finally hearing this updated DEMO turned slickly produced album in the year 2020, what are we to think? Are we happy to have the BUNGLERs in a bonafide reunion of sorts or are we pissed that all that amazing talent is wasted on a somewhat average but excellently performed thrash metal album?

Well the answer to that is somewhere in between. Given the MR BUNGLE canon of the 90s the band never really had the chance to be, well, just a metal band as these guys were always trying to cram one more musical idea into the mix until it morphed into a gargantuan chimera that evolved into something completely different.

On this EASTER BUNNY update (ironically released in time for Halloween!), the boyz from Eureka just get to take off their magic backpacks filled with every musical flavor this side of the sun and simply crank out some seriously manic, raw, noisy, aggressive and HEAVY metal music albums.

This updated DEMO features all of the original eight tracks of the 1985 demo only for some mysterious reason "Evil Satan" was nixed. The new release has four new tracks including "Glutton For Punishment," "Mathematics," "Eracist" and "Loss For Words," as well as the track ""Hypocrites / Habla Espa駉l O Muere" which includes the original track and cleverly incorporates Ian Scott's irreverent crossover thrash band's material from Stormtroopers of Death.

Yeah, there are definitely some BUNGLE-isms tucked into the mix but for the most part THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY DEMO is a rampaging and galloping thrash metal album displaying Patton's vocal antics and allows Spruance to actually throw out some lead guitar here and there.

To be honest this wasn't i wanted in a new MR BUNGLE album. In fact i wasn't even wanting a new album after all this time. While this little gimmick is an excellently performed aggressive assault on the sense made all the more palatable by the drumming prowess of Lombardo and the inclusion of Scott Ian, what we all really want is whatever was supposed to emerge after "California!"

Hopefully this is simply a little side note that is getting the band back into shape after a long absence from the scene but now that you have gotten this out of your system, guys, PLEASE do not feel the need to re-record the other three demos as well! We want 90s MR BUNGLE with all that genre bending insanity!

Despite it all though i have to admit that this is an excellent slice of hardcore thrash metal that delivers the required aggressiveness for that classic thrash attack but at an hour's playing time it perhaps could've been trimmed down just a wee bit. Whatever! MR BUNGLE is back! Yeah 2020 truly is the weirdest year ever and this only adds to the surreality.

 Grand Opening and Closing by SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.68 | 108 ratings

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Grand Opening and Closing
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Producing some of the funnest, funniest, darkest, scariest, quirkiest, most unusual, and complex music in modern progressive rock, one can only scratch one's head at the genius, lunacy, and chaos that must be on exhibition during this band's brainstorming and practice sessions.

1. "Sleep is Wrong" (6:35) a song whose music reflects the adolescent petulance of its title perfectly. I wonder how it worked out . . . when (and if) they grew up. (9/10)

2. "Ambugaton" (5:38) the amount of tension one can exude with simple, spacious chromaticism. The intro of this instrumental reminds me of PRESENT or UNIVERS ZERO while full-on ramped up belly of the song reminds me of LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT or BRUFORD-LEVIN UPPER EXTREMITIES. (8.75/10)

3. "Ablutions" (6:05) this more delicate ("fragile" might be the better word) is otherworldly eerie like a YUGEN or --at least until the three minute mark when the Stygian chorus "chimes" in. Weird but genius for creating a mood--and amazingly performed--especially by vocalist Carla Kihlstedt. (9/10)

4. "1997" (4:48) almost "straightforward" death metal! Not their strong suit; this kind of music places the band back in the categorical range of "normal" for emotive metal bands. Luckily, there is the passage in the fourth minute in which they shift to an odd time signature. (8.5/10)

5. "The Miniature" (0:59) chamber music! Gorgeous! I'd like to hear more of this side of the band's talents on display! (5/5)

6. "Powerless" (9:30) with an opening that sounds like a microphone was left on in a piano stringing factory, we are prepped for another doom-and-gloomer. But, man! are these guys talented musicians! (and creative song-crafters.) I think they've out angulated Fripp and the Crim as well as Danny Elfman and his Tim Burton soundtracks! And I love that they didn't have to use death metal growls to convey it (other than in the one-word choruses). Unfortunately, it does drag on a little bit too long in several places. (17.5/20)

7. "The Stain" (6:46) The descending chromatic scale used for this vocal--over a "musical" palette of very sparsely "decorated" industrial noise--does not work for me. The staccato Crimsonian interplay between the instruments also fails to engage me. This song is best described as an exercise in disharmony and disciplined turn-taking. (12.75/15)

8. "Sleepytime" (10:16) Another delicate attempt at Elfman-ish creep and sinister, the beginning section is simply too long, the middle "bridge" too drawn out. When the music does finally reach full scale at the end of the sixth minute, it is slightly dragged down by the continuation of the vocal chorus from before. The final 90 seconds is the best part of an otherwise disposable, sub-par song. (16.25/20)

9. "Sunflower" (7:52) eight minutes of playing around with the acoustics of a hammered dulcimer (and a couple of bells). An unfortunate way to end an album that started so dynamically. (10/15)

Total Time: 58:29

C+/3.5 stars. Were it not for the descending disaster of the final two songs, this would be a near-masterpiece of adventurous and exciting progressive rock musical expression. Thus, I urge you to check it out for yourselves as the first half of the album is certainly something extraordinary.

 The Gnostic Trio: The Gnostic Preludes by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.88 | 5 ratings

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The Gnostic Trio: The Gnostic Preludes
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars John Zorn could arguably be the most diverse artists listed in the Archives. Not only that, he also has one of the largest discographies of all the musical artists out there. It can also be one of the most confusing, as he has his name attached to several different projects, and I would dare say that most of his discography doesn't even have his name listed as a performer. However, he is active in each of his projects as a composer, producer, and instigator of each one of them.

The Gnostic Trio is one of his many projects, but it is also a project within a project in a round-about way since the first one under this project name was originally included in a group of albums that he oversaw that had to do with mystically influenced albums. Since this original group of mystically-themed albums, Zorn has explored mystical themes quite a bit. Let's not get into that though, as you could write an entire book about it. Instead, let's focus on The Gnostic Trio which consists of the dynamic guitarist Bill Frisell, the vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen (who has collaborated with Zorn quite extensively) and the amazing harpist Carol Emanuel. These three musicians have formed the core of The Gnostic Trio and under this name have made at least 7 albums under Zorn's large umbrella.

The first album this project released is this one: "The Gnostic Preludes", released in 2012. This album is made up of 8 preludes, most of which are around 6 minutes long. The music is quite accessible, but it is also quite complex in it's own right. All three musicians are excellent at their craft, so the music is quite professionally done and easy to listen to, but also very enjoyable. But as simple as it sounds, it isn't due to the fact that it it necessarily has a typical structure. There isn't much dissonance in the sound, but there is some, however, it is some of Zorn's most accessible music, so don't expect anything really avant-garde, however, it is highly artistic and quite beautiful.

The spiritual/mystical aspect of the music is apparent in its laidback and exalting tone which is enhanced by Frisell's signature style, his laid-back tone and style, yet even with his status, he still becomes an equal partner in the trio's structure. The three musicians work together beautifully, each one working in supporting roles at times and at other times, each one taking the lead when needed. Simplicity in a folk-ish sense in the central feel of the music, yet the individual tracks still have their own personalities. The album does not fall into the trap that other albums with a similar, simple line-up might have, that of sounding too much the same throughout. For example, "The Middle Pillar" hints around at a Spanish flamenco sound while "The Book of Pleasure" leans more toward a jazz-inflected chamber piece. In "Music of the Spheres", both Frisell and Wollesen perform a fascinating interplay while Emmanuel provides a lovely background to their antics.

No doubt that this is one that most everyone will enjoy. It is also a great front-door to Zorn's work as it is quite intensive. However, if you are afraid of what you might have heard about Zorn's other works and projects, this one is quite safe, yet it has a very poetic and mystical feel to it. It is easy to forget that this music is made up of 3 instrumentalists as it seems so vast, not shallow like many new age artists that were around at the time. This is far from that, it is authentic and it is the heart that you feel in this music, that it is authentic and all the more interesting because of that. If you love your music simple, stripped down to a simple guitar, vibraphone and harp, that can still manage to challenge your deepest musical passions, then this is for you. It is definitely one that people should be giving more attention to.

 Canto Fermo by ANATROFOBIA album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.05 | 3 ratings

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Canto Fermo
Anatrofobia RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

3 stars Anatrofobia are an Italian RIO/experimental progressive rock band from Italy, who between 1997 and 2007 released 6 studio albums. At the time there was a core of brothers Luca Cartolari (bass and electronics), Alessandro Cartolari (alto sax and elecotrnics) and Andrea Biondello (percussion). Some 13 years on from their last full-length the album, are back with their next. Only Luca Cartolari (bass, e-bow, effects, computer) and Andrea Biondello (drums) are still there, and they have been joined by Cristina Trotto Gatta from Masche (voice, melodica) and Paolo Cant?(guitar, clarinet, effects, loops, electronics). Cant?is a well-known guitarist in the experimental scene, playing in bands such as Makhno, Tasaday Afterhours, Six Minute War Madness, A Short Apnea, Four Gardens in One, End of Summer, Damo Suzuki's Network, and others. Anyone who is heavily involved with any member of Can is always going to have an interesting approach to music, and such is the case here.

The band have historically been an instrumental act, but now they have a singer, yet her approach (which may actually be just reading the words although she does sing as well) fits in well with what is an incredibly experimental and interesting outfit. There is a feeling of a large amount of improvisation on the album, although some pieces are obviously structured quite deliberately. But while there may be beautifully delicate fretless bass, that could be pitted against strange electronic noises and jagged sounds which both brings all the elements together yet also deliberately alienates them. Often one has no idea where the music is going, but then one does wonder if the band does either, yet somehow it always comes to a logical conclusion. Delicate yet strong, this is left field music for those who enjoy musicians who continue to push boundaries and do something quite different. Anatrofobia were originally formed nearly 30 years ago and it will be interesting to see if we have to wait another 13 years for the next one as this is both solid and incredibly interesting.

 Figures by AKSAK MABOUL album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.95 | 12 ratings

BUY
Figures
Aksak Maboul RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kurtrongey

4 stars This album is a goldmine of understated, ultra-arty Frenchness. Add Astrud Gilberto-like vocals to elaborately constructed songs, enigmatic electronic constructions, and a certain portion of pure progressive instrumental whimsy. Super-infectious - if Poulenc had a pop band, it might sound like this. Listen to it on a breezy day with the windows open in your apartment overlooking the C魌e d'Azur. Highlights include "Spleen閠ique," one of the more conventionally proggy tracks, "Retour chez" with some very dramatic harmonies and "Un Ca飀," contrasting light-hearted vocal verses with some startling instrumental breaks and an enigmatic ending. It's a double CD/LP and is refreshingly free of skippable dead space.
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