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

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Pelt - Técheöd – Here we have three ambient tracks from a not-so-dark trio on the indie VHF label. According to the label website, the title of this album is pronounced "Tay-hoood," but I'm still not certain what...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues