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

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

French TV - Virtue in Futility – Louisville is as unlikely a place for progressive rock as any, yet that's where bassist Mike Sary's French TV hail from. Its been ten years since their debut album, yet Virtue in Futility (an apt...  (1994) » Read more

Tod Dockstader / David Lee Myers - Bijou – Tod Dockstader is one of the grand old men of electro-acoustic music, and on Bijou he is teamed with David Lee Myers, who performs on “feedback machines.” From the cover to the booklet to...  (2006) » Read more

Fantasy - Vivariatum – Fantasy are probably best known for their 1973 debut, Paint a Picture, a song-orientated but strikingly beautiful and melodic classic of British progressive. More recently, Audio Archives released...  (1995) » Read more

Oats - Sons of the Sonic Solution – Sons of the Sonic Solution is 70 minutes of off-the-wall bizarre and eclectic alternative-styled music. There is a definite element of the low- budget grungy alternative ethos; wailing feedback...  (1996) » Read more

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension - To the One – Has there ever been such a strong John McLaughlin studio album? This slightly revised quartet has come off some high mountaintops (specifically the guitarist’s last two albums, Industrial Zen...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues