Exposé Online banner

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

by Jon Davis, 2002-09-01:

Western Culture Cover art 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?

by Jeff Melton, 1996-03-01:

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.


Filed under: Reissues , Issue 9 , 2001 releases, 1978 releases

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

More info

Latest news

2019-11-07
Glenn Smith RIP – Glenn Smith, founder, mandolinist, and primary composer of the DeLand, Florida based prog / fusion band Magnatar, passed away on October 18th 2019 at the age of 68, after a brief illness.  » Read more

2019-11-04
Dino Brassea RIP – Word reaches us of the passing of Dino Brassea, who sang and played flute in Cast for many years. By our count, Brassea appeared on 11 Cast albums between 1994 and 2002. He also released music as a solo artist. » Read more

2019-10-06
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more

2019-08-20
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Terra Firma - Earthbound – Climbing out the morass of thrash bands and Pearl Jam clones ascends a new Seattle area group with its feet rooted in Terra Firma and its head in the cosmos. Forget your preconceived notions of space...  (1999) » Read more

Rousseau - Square the Circle – This is the third album by this German six-piece, probably better known for their first album Flower in Asphalt, with which they developed a reputation of being essentially a decent Camel clone. Over...  (1995) » Read more

Expo '70 - Black Ohms – To make this review the written equivalent of Expo ‘70’s work, I suppose I should just pick a word and repeat it over over over over. I just need to tell the reader to say it with a slightly...  (2009) » Read more

Phaesis - Puzzle – Phaesis from France is no new band, in fact they can celebrate their 25th anniversary in a few years time, since the band was founded in 1982. This is their fifth release to be precise. They seem to...  (2006) » Read more

Motor Totemist Guild - Archive One & Two – Before the recombinant U Totem ever hit the streets, baton wielder James Grigsby fronted The Motor Totemist Guild (recently reconstituted as a twelve-piece ensemble featuring members of Non Credo, U...  (1998) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues