Exposé Online banner

Henry Cow — Western Culture
(ReR Megacorp hc 4, 1978/2001, CD)

by Jeff Melton, 1996-03-01:

Western Culture Cover art

Western Culture was originally released in 1978 as the final official album from Henry Cow. This single disc is separated into two 18 minute tracks: "History and Broken Prospects" (written by Tim Hodgkinson) and "Day by Day" (written by Lindsay Cooper). The tracks are then broken down into seven segments, each of which twists and turns through many stylistic changes and tempos. For the uninitiated, instrumentation is as follows: there are no vocals, I repeat: no vocals! Dagmar Krause is MIA which is probably a blessing to most of you who were scared to death from that first shriek you heard when she first joined the group. Less intimidation does mean more accessibility on those terms; so there are no noticeably overt political statements since the album is all instrumental. Hodgkinson plays keyboards, Cooper on bassoon, both on woodwinds; Fred Frith is on guitars and bass; and Chris Cutler on percussion ( and of course, 'noise'). This album is comparable to their very first album in structure and direction of the compositions. It can be viewed as modern classical, chamber music merged with progressive rock and jazz sensibilities, very similar in style to bands such as Univers Zero. There are certain amounts of dissonant, and discordant playing which will appeal more to modern composers than rock and rollers. It is difficult music to digest at first listen, and will take some discipline to wade through the disc a few times, but it will be rewarding after a while. Waiting for the lead guitar to come in always seems to help me through the most dire and bleak musical passage. This is great music for that European movie you saw, and didn't get since it was missing the subtitles.


by Jon Davis, 2002-09-01:

By the time they got to 1978 and the recording of Western Culture, Henry Cow were in the process of breaking apart. Fortunately for us, they saw the project through to its completion, for it is full of great music, some of it recorded after the band’s last live appearance. Lindsay Cooper and Tim Hodgkinson each composed three of the original seven pieces, and the two collaborated on the remaining one. Fred Frith and Chris Cutler round out the band, but do not contribute any compositions, and guests fill in on trombone, violin, piano, and bass. Dagmar Kraus had by this time left the band for health reasons, and the album is entirely instrumental, which is likely a plus to many listeners. The elements I like best in Henry Cow are all present here: interesting chamber pieces for adventurous ensembles as well as crunchy angular pseudo-rock, all approached with an improvisational attitude, even when it’s tightly composed. Hodgkinson’s suite “History and Prospects” features these contrasts in abundance, starting with the heaviest piece, “Industry.” In general, there is less of the meandering improvisation that sometimes slowed the band down. Cooper’s suite “Day by Day” features some excellent ensemble arrangements and brilliant contrasts – I love hearing the bassoon in contexts like this. Three tracks dating from the same time period (one an alternate version of “Look Back”) are added for this release. Have I mentioned the Chris Cutler is one of the most inventive drummers ever?

Filed under: Reissues , Issue 25 , 2001 releases, 1978 releases

Related artist(s): Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Tim Hodgkinson, Lindsay Cooper, Henry Cow

More info

Latest news

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

IQ - Ever – After two almost-completely duff studio albums and a long hiatus, it's good to see that the leading purveyors of the neo-Genesis sound are again living up to their good reputation. What does that...  (1994) » Read more

Trilogy - Here It Is – With a name like Trilogy, one may have some preconceived ideas as to what this band is all about. The fact that four hands man the keyboards may further lead one to believe that this is some kind of...  (1994) » Read more

The Tunnel Singer - Cenote – Cenote is a welcome return to the pure vocal and natural reverb effects that The Tunnel Singer (Lee Ellen Shoemaker) employed on her earlier releases like Water Birth and Night Skies. She did a...  (2007) » Read more

Area - Parigi-Lisbona – This recording comprises two live shows from the premier "international PoPular group" of the 70s and 80s, Area, bringing us back in time to 1976 when such bands were loud (yet audible),...  (1997) » Read more

Arto Lindsay - O Corpo Sutil - The Subtle Body – Lindsay has been a fixture of the New York "No Wave" scene and beyond since the early 80s. His most notable projects have been as vocalist and guitarist for The Lounge Lizards (faux-jazz),...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues