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

2018-02-18
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more

2018-02-15
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more

2018-02-14
Tom Rapp RIP – Singer / songwriter Tom Rapp, best known with the band Pearls Before Swine, passed away on February 12, at the age of 70, after a battle with cancer. » Read more

2018-01-30
Bill Bruford Ventures into Uncharted Territory – Drum master Bill Bruford, veteran of some of the most creative bands in history (King Crimson, Yes, Genese, etc.), is sharing some of what he's learned about being a drummer and a musician in his new book, Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer, out on University of Michigan Press. » Read more

2018-01-18
Christian Burchard RIP – Multi-instrumentalist Christian Burchard, who founded the seminal band Embryo in 1969, has died at the age of 71. His January 17 passing was announced on the band's Facebook page. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Manticore - Time to Fly – Manticore is a new outfit from Sweden and with that name a heavy Emerson, Lake and Palmer influence is bound to be present. The first track, "New Foundation," ripples with ELP right down to the main...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues