Exposé Online banner

Non Credo — Happy Wretched Family
(Victo CD 033, 1995, CD)

by Mike Ezzo, Published 1996-08-01

Happy Wretched Family Cover art

Though this is only Non Credo's second outing, one listen should erase any question about why it's been so long since their debut, Reluctant Hosts. The Los Angeles duo consists of just Kira Vollman and Joe Berardi. The latter was a member of The Fibonaccis, a group that never really reached their potential during their short lifespan in the 80s. I'm glad to say, however, that Non Credo does reach theirs, and then some. What this band offers up here is a unique and refreshing take on the avant-slanted "art song" format pioneered by groups like The Art Bears. But to me, Happy Wretched Family outclasses just about all of its ancestors in the RIO world, for the simple reason that Non Credo does not deny the importance of technical craft in making music. And this is what separates it from so much other music in this mold. So often I find that these albums will boast one or two promising efforts, which quickly self-destruct in a riot of unfocused rambling. The legacy of Henry Cow seems to hold a hegemony over so much RIO output, and it often adversely affects the results. But Non Credo concentrate on a civilized experimentation that never gets away from them. Always in control and fully cognizant of the boundaries, they exploit the virtues of electronic sound programming beautifully, adding bass, clarinet, voice, drums, and tuned percussion to the quirky blend. The compositions are pithy, concise, and to-the-point. There are a few moments, notably on "Hacked," that almost distill elements of early Art Zoyd into a compact package. Kira is breathtaking as a vocalist. A range that of which you'd expect of an opera singer is put to good use; with a different characterization on each song, mostly of a dark Teutonic expressionism. But being American, there is a whimsical attitude to balance it out. I love the resulting irony when her impassioned singing is juxtaposed to the sometimes bleak and stoic instrumental backing. It's these kinds of contrasts that really make this work something out of the ordinary. And Berardi has politely tossed the traditional drummer's role out the window; in its place is a unique inflection on each and every song. He is the epitome of subtlety, grace and finesse, highlighting the music by exploiting all the myriad colors and textures of the kit. Nary a "boom-tap-boom-tap" rears its ugly head! Music of the caliber that once helped define genres and set standards, but eludes easy classification, Happy Wretched Family warrants high praise indeed.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 10, 1995 releases

Related artist(s): Non Credo

Latest news

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

The Cosmic Jokers - The Cosmic Jokers & Galactic Supermarket – Give LSD to the Haight Ashbury scene in the bay area in the late 60s and you have the flower power generation; give it to a bunch of young radical German musicians and you have the Ohr, Pilz, and...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues