Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cassiber - 2012 - The Way It Was

The Way It Was

01.This Was The Way It Was
02. Archways    
03. A Screaming    
04. They Have Begun To Move    
05. 2:00 In The Morning    
06. Todo Dia    
07. It's Never Quiet    
08. Six Rays    
09. Prisoner Chorus 1
10. Prisoner Chorus 2
11. Oh No    
12. I Was Old When I Was Young    
13. Disk Not Responding    
14. Gut
15. Crusoe's Landing
16. Miracolo    
17. Our Colourful Culture    
18. In A Room    
19. Not Me    

Drums, Performer [Objects], Electronics [Realtime Electronic Processing], Liner Notes – Chris Cutler
Guitar – Rene Lussier* (tracks: 15)
Keyboards [Polyphonic And Sampling], Violin [Chinese], Guitar, Voice – Heiner Goebbels
Saxophone, Electronics – Dietmar Diesner (tracks: 3)
Voice, Guitar, Keyboards [Sampling], Tenor Saxophone – Christoph Anders

Subtitled 'Live Recordings And Studio Sketches 1985-1992'

Edition of 1000. Released ahead of Cassiber 30th Anniversary Box Set; this release is intended to form part of the Box Set once it is released.

The title is as appropriate as it is aphoristic. This is as convincing, and as inclusive, a single-disc representation of Cassiber as we are likely to hear. Yet, as with even the most lovingly chosen appelations, it says very little about content. Cassiber (the name means "A message smuggled out of prison") did indeed tear down some metaphorical walls, and the group's technological and musical innovations pervade these 19 studio and live tracks, recorded between 1986 and 1989.

By the earliest of these forays, Alfred Harth had parted company with the original duo of Heiner Goebbels and Christoph Anders, who had been joined in 1982 by Chris Cutler. The trio, supplemented by guest appearances, remained intact until 1992, and we are now invited to dig into further fruits of this fertile phase. To place much of the music into neatly carved boxes is simultaneously easy and overwhelmingly frustrating, as the group was working to radicalize the music from the inside. The title track obviously throws down a funky vibe in the typically gated reverb of the time, but within the first thirty seconds, there is a nearly complete breakdown as guitar-driven industrosplatter creeps in, usurping all except a shaker and the thumping bass. Even the stuttering beat and wide stereo spectrum of this little gem places it beyond the pale in any commercial radio-friendly environment. Similarly, "Six Rays" draws on a harsh updating of early 1980s "New Wave" sounds, but the constantly morphing harmonies and guitar scree deny it access to that world, totally leaving aside the charged lyrical content.

Then, there is the visionary music that fits nowhere; raw shock is still engendered by the cinematic "A Screaming," a study in stark contrasts with bleak doubled vocals decrying the apocalyptic message. We are also privy to the dismemberment of Beethoven's third symphony before "Crusoe's Landing" launches into its metered whirlwind, leading directly into the chants and hums of the haunting "Miracolo."

As with the Henry Cow, Art Bears and Faust boxes, Bob Drake's work on these archival recordings is stunning. He exposes detail but never sacrifices clarity or impact in the process. If this disc is any indication, the forthcoming Cassiber box will be another jewel in RéR's crown.

Cassiber - 1988 - A Face We All Know

A Face We All Know

01. This was the way it was (0:52)
02. Remember (2:52)
03. Old Gods (0:27)
04. 2 'o clock in the morning (2:37)
05. Philosophy (1) (0:07)
06. Gut (3:46)
07. Start the show (3:03)
08. A screaming comes across the sky (3:12)
09. They go in under archways (4:12)
10. They have begun to move (3:33)
11. Time gets faster (0:28)
12. It's never quiet (2:25)
13. Philosophy (2) (0:05)
14. A screaming holds (1:57)
15. Philosophy (3) (0:32)
16. I was old (3:54)
17. The way it was (5:06)
18. To move (2:54)

- Christoph Anders /singing, sampling keyboard, guitar
- Chris Cutler / drums, electrics, voice
- Heiner Goebbels / keyboards, sampling, guitar on 16, bass, computer work

Plot conceived and original text written July 1988 in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Recorded 28th November to 7th December 1988, mixed 19th to 21st October 1989 at the Electronic Music Studio of the Akademie Der Künste Der DDR, Berlin.
Assembled 1st to 3rd September 1990 in Heiner's basement in Frankfurt.

Playful and reminds me of The Science Group, with psychedelic semi-distant shouting and samples, reminding me of Fred Frith and some Swedish psychedelic bands like Älgarnas Trädgård and Ur Kaos. There's a Dvouletá Fáma sample in the end of "Start the Show". There's also some other samples, so... it's a bit annoying too, now that it's lending. Also, the shouting gets a bit boring.

Cassiber - 1986 - Perfect Worlds

Perfect Worlds

01. Dust and Ashes (2:03)
02. Crusoe's Landing (4:34)
03. Miracolo (4:53)
04. Prometheus (4:51)
05. Sleep Armed (2:15)
06. In a Room (4:56)
07. Todo dia (2:35)
08. Orphee's Mirror (5:02)
09. I tried to reach you (1:59)

- Christoph Anders /singing, sampling keyboard, guitar
- Chris Cutler / drums, electrics, voice
- Heiner Goebbels / keyboards, sampling, guitar on 1,6, bass, computer work

As Far all output of Cassiber is exceptional, this one is my personal favorite. Ugly Beauty of Music and absolutely demented lyrics about isolation , anxiety of Human Race in whole makes this jam one take breathing. This is first album without participating of Alfred Harth. Pity such great talent leave project, but some advantages thankfully appeared. Last three pals were obligated to reinvent upproach and sound is overtly stripped down more concentrated on the story. The most outstanding tracks are In A Room with absurdist lyrics in the vein of late Samuel Beckett and of course last powerful anthem I Try To Reach You, wich become permanent closer in Cassiber concerts. Anyway it is one of kind outing!

Cassiber - 1984 - Beauty And The Beast

Beauty And The Beast

01. Six Rays (4:09)
02. Robert (5:02)
03. Last Call (3:02)
04. Ach, heile mich (6:35)
05. Haruspices (1:54)
06. Under New Management (5:29)
07. Vengeance is Dancing (2:19)
08. In einer Minute (4:32)
09. Und ich werde nicht mehr sehen (3:01)
10. Trendre La Lune Avec Les Dents (4:16)
11. At Last I Am Free (3:47)
12. Time Running Out (5:29)

- Chris Cutler / drums
- Heiner Goebbels / violin, piano
- Christoph Anders / vocals, guitars
- Alfred Harth / saxophone

 Cassiber's debut album was originally intended to be a one-off, but shortly after its release they were invited to play at the Frankfurt Jazz Festival and further live work followed. A couple of years after Man or Monkey they recorded Beauty and the Beast, which was created using the same methodology as before - improvised composition - but their experience as a performing band had made a difference to their music; on this occasion there was a greater sense of coherence both within the individual pieces and across the album as a whole.

As on their previous outing the album featured a mixture of instrumental and vocal tracks, although on this occasion Chris Cutler's texts were not used as extensively as before. The use of electronics was also more prominent this time around, with cassette recorded voices woven into the fabric of several tracks. Robert, the second track, features a brief snippet of Captain Beefheart reciting The Dust Blows Forward, while elsewhere the vocals seem to have been recorded from German news broadcasts, and for the most part this technique is very effective; on later albums Cassiber would use samplers and electronics even more prominently. Two cover versions are included: Und Ich Werde Nicht Mehr Sehen is a Hans Eisler piece, while At Last I Am Free is a song by Chic that was also covered by Robert Wyatt on Nothing Can Stop Us. At Last I Am Free is one of the album's highlights and manages to be faithful to the spirit of the original but also has the same uncompromising RIO sound as the rest of the album. The more 'free' improvisations veer into some decidedly abstract territory, but the album is sequenced so that they are contrasted with more accessible pieces and many of the tracks segue into each other, creating a constantly shifting mood. There are also moments of real beauty, particularly from Goebell's piano and Harth's saxophone, although any lyrical passages are brief and there is usually something loud, discordant or disturbing to provide contrast.

Beauty & the Beast is an uncompromising piece of work, but it has stood the test of time rather better than Man or Monkey. It's interesting to compare it with Skeleton Crew's debut album, which was released at around the same time and which also made extensive use of taped vocals. Both are very much products of their time, RIO meeting post punk experimentalism, and both see former members of Henry Cow engaging with new developments in music and remaining progressive in the truest sense of the word. If you like one, you'll probably like the other; Beauty & the Beast can be recommended to anybody who likes 80s avant rock and indeed to anybody inclined to try something adventurous for a change.

Cassiber - 1982 - Man Or Monkey

Man Or Monkey

01. Not Me (3:38)
02. Red Shadow (3:50)
03. Chor der Gefangenen (4:51)
04. Our Colourful Culture (3:05)
05. O Cure Me (5:54)
06. This Core (4:20)
07. Man or Monkey (16:39)
08. Django vergibt (3:10)
09. Die Verunreinigung des Flusses ist gerade noch ertraeglich (6:38)
10. Sag mir wo die Blumen sind (2:41)

- Chris Cutler / drums
- Heiner Goebbels / violin, piano
- Christoph Anders / vocals, guitars
- Alfred Harth / saxophone

All songs and instrumental pieces were improvised.

Sides A and B: Our idea was to go to the studio with only a body of texts to use if, where and when Christoph was moved (except for the words to "Our Colourful Culture", which were written specially in response to the music already recorded), but to improvise all structures and arrangements; in other words to produce instant collective compositions and arrangements.

All the tracks on these records are essentially live recordings. (There are a few overdubs on sides A and B, edits on A1 and A3, B1 and D1).

Sides C and D: All the music except D2 was recorded direct onto halftrack master.

Recorded between 5th and 16th August 1982 at Sunrise Studios (CH-9533 Kirchberg) (except "Man Or Monkey", which is a live recording made direct on-to half-track master and simultaneously mixed).

An experimental, jazz and electronic trio in the tradition of Henry COW, CASSIBER came to life in the early 80's when COW's own drummer Chris Cutler got together with two Frankfurt musicians, namely composer Heiner Goebbels on violin and piano, and sampler extraordinaire Christoph Anders on vocals and guitars. Alfred Harth later joined them on sax for a couple of albums and then (the late) Masami Shinoda took over sax duties during a memorable live performance in Tokyo in 1992.

CASSIBER's music is fractured, complex and very difficult to get into. Mostly improvised (except for a few lyrics they kept on hand for inspiration), their material consists of sampled mayhem, free jazz, industrial noise, declaimed vocals (Christoph Ander's vocals are truly an acquired taste), newsreel clips and the likes. The rare unity they attained with their third album in 1988, "A Face We All Know", makes it their most powerful release to date and is considered their masterpiece (its theme is about the collapse of the Berlin Wall). The double album "Cassiber - Live in Tokyo" is a true farewell documentary: disk one captures the band's only visit to Japan and their very last concert together, featuring guest saxophonist Masami Shinoda who died soon after. Disk two is a radical reworking/remixing of the same material by Otomo Yoshida & Ground Zero that make it sound like an entirely different album altogether.

Cassiber's debut offering was an odd affair in more ways than one. It was originally released as two 45 rpm 12" discs, with each side of the album having a playing time of 12 - 16 minutes. Was it a double mini album, a double ep or what? Once you got past the unconventional format the music itself was unusual even by RIO standards; Chris Cutler had never played with the other 3 musicians before, and the idea was to improvise songs and compositions - only the lyrics (by Cutler) were written before the recording began. The results were often dazzling, although Cassiber would go on to achieve greater things.

The instrumentation on this occasion was largely acoustic and relatively conventional; guitar/vocal, piano/violin, sax/trombone and drums with only occasional bursts of the electronics which would be a more prominent feature of their later albums. Tracks 1 - 6, which took up disc 1, are relatively accessible and feature most of the album's vocals. Christoph Anders does not sing the lyrics so much as declaim them, and in some cases it sounds like he's reading them aloud for the first time, although somehow this fits quite nicely with the general aesthetic of the music. As Sean Trane mentioned in his review the stand out is probably Our Colourful Culture, which was set to music which had already been composed. It tears along at a frantic pace and is oddly reminiscent of some of Robert Wyatt's more uptempo numbers - perhaps it's the jazzy piano and feverish drumming. The second half of the album is mostly instrumental (none of Cutler's lyrics are used) and moves deep into the free improvisation side of RIO that Henry Cow and Zammla Mammaz Manna explored a few years previously. These pieces are sometimes hard work, especially the 16 minute title track, but there are moments which make it worth persevering with, especially Django vergibt and Die Verunreinigung des Flusses ist gerade noch ertraeglich which were on side 4 of the vinyl original; Die Verunreinigung... in particular features some wonderfully expressive sax from Harth.

Man or Monkey ultimately promises a little more than it actually delivers, but even without the dense and difficult title track there is still a vinyl album's worth of good and occasionally inspired 80s RIO with some superb playing. The unorthodox, improvisation based approach was always going to be risky, and it's a testimony to the skill of all concerned that so much of the resulting music worked so well. Good, but non essential - newcomers would be better advised to start with Beauty & the Beast.

Art Bears - 1981 - The World As It Is Today

Art Bears 
The World As It Is Today 

01. The Song Of Investment Capital Overseas
02. Truth
03. Freedom
04. (armed) Peace
05. Civilisation
06. Democracy
07. The Song Of The Martyrs
08. Law
09. The Song Of The Monopolists
10. The Song Of The Dignity Of Labour Under Capital
11. Albion, Awake! (times unavailable)

12. Silence

Bonus Tracks
13. Coda To Man And Boy 1981
14. All Hail
15. Duck And Cover- The Song Of Investment Capital Overseas

- Fred Frith / guitars, violin, keyboards
- Chris Cutler / drums, percussion
- Dagmar Krause / vocals

Art Bears' third and final album was recorded much like the preceding Winter Songs - Chris Cutler arrived at the studio with the lyrics already written, Frith set them to music more or less on the spot and the album was completed in just a couple of weeks. Where the previous album drew heavily on Cutler's fascination with the Middle Ages, The World... goes back to the Brechtian influences heard on Hopes and Fears and the lyrics are a savage critique of global capitalism. Frith's music complements this perfectly, while Dagmar Krause gave a bravura performance as RIO's answer to Lotte Lenya.

Right from the outset the listener is left in no doubt as to the direction of this material; 'The Song Of Investment Capital Overseas' comes straight out of Bertold Brechts Big Book Of Catchy Song Titles, while Frith's piano driven setting, underpinned by Cutler's restless drumming, suggests a militant left wing cabaret band. Imagine Slapp Happy after an intensive course in Marxism and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. This sets the tone for what is to follow - the folk influences discernible on the first two albums are largely absent, while the use of the studio is now an integral part of the compositional process. The influence of pioneers like Faust and The Residents is more overt than ever, and on Civilisation the lengthy coda sounds like a nod to Not Waving/Water from This Heat's first album. While there is no out and out rocker here, Democracy features some thunderous drumming in contrast to Cutler's more characteristic featherlight playing. The sonic palette has changed, with piano and keyboards more to the fore and less emphasis on violin and guitar than previously. Fred Frith's piano contributions are his best since Robert Wyatt's Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, while his knack with catchy but unpredictable melodies has rarely been deployed to better effect. The songs are also very much to the point, with six of the ten titles lasting less than three minutes, and the superb Law clocks in at 0.51 - short, sharp and bitterly sarcastic. As ever, it is Dagmar who brings these songs to life, and on Freedom she improvises a truly blood curdling wail which builds slowly into a scream of anguish and despair, while Fred Frith plays a perfectly judged guitar solo that Robert Fripp would be proud of as a counterpoint. Etienne Conod is at the controls as engineer once again, and really deserves to be thought of as the fourth Art Bear - this is a beautifully recorded album which is only dated in places by Cutler's use of electric drums.

If The World As It Is Today doesn't quite have the clarity and beauty of Winter Songs, it's still an excellent album which shows RIO at its best. The lyrics are, if anything, more relevant today than they were in 1980, and the album would work well as a soundtrack to the anti-capitalist demonstrations at recent G8 summits. It's also been massively influential on RIO/Avant prog. Art Bears continue to cast a long shadow over this genre, and like their other albums The World As It Is Today repays careful and repeated listening. Recommended.

Art Bears - 1979 - Winter Songs

Art Bears 
Winter Songs 

01. The Bath of Stars
02. First Things First
03. Gold
04. The Summer Wheel
05. The Slave
06. The Hermit
07. Rats and Monkeys
08. The Skeleton
09. The Winter Wheel
10. Man and Boy
11. Winter/War
12. Force
13. Three Figures
14. Three Wheels

15. Silence

Bonus Tracks
16. Collapse 1979
17. Carved In Stone (Rebirth)

- Fred Frith / guitars, violin, keyboards
- Chris Cutler / drums, percussion
- Dagmar Krause / vocals

Art Bears' second album is their masterpiece, a beautifully focused and concentrated piece of work that was recorded in just 2 weeks. Amazingly, the music was all written during the recording period - Chris Cutler arrived with the texts, Fred Frith set them to music and the arrangements evolved in the studio. On this album there were no guest musicians, although special mention should be made of engineer Etienne Conod's contribution to their use of the studio as a compositional instrument.

Where their debut album explored several different themes, the lyrics for Winter Songs are informed mostly by Chris Cutler's fascination with the Middle Ages and are based on stone carvings in Amiens cathedral (except for two songs that refer to similar carvings in other cathedrals from the same era and area). The words are always poetic and sometimes oblique, although Cutler's political leanings can be inferred from Gold: "Owned men mined me/And out of their lives all my value derived/And out of their deaths/My authority". The music has some of folk influences first heard on 'Hopes and Fears' (Frith began his musical career in folk clubs and some of his solo albums feature his unique take on various folk traditions), but also ventures into dense, dark RIO style chamber rock and even into Residents- influenced studio wizardry. With Frith playing everything except drums, the arrangements are precise and uncluttered. Bass guitar is only heard on a few tracks, most notably on The Summer Wheel and 3 Figures, and like all the other elements in the sonic palette it is only used when necessary. There are some splendid passages featuring violin and piano, as well as Frith's ever inventive guitar. Chris Cutler's drumming is likewise a model of clarity and concision - rather than trying to fill all the available space, he knows when to drive the tempo forward, when to play softly to complement Frith or Dagmar and - most crucially - when not to play at all. Dagmar's interpretation of this material features some of her best vocal performances - The Hermit is sung with a clear, bell like tone, on The Skeleton she is at her most strident and the frantically uptempo Rats and Monkeys (a counterpart to the rock out on In Two Minds from Hopes and Fears) shows the uniqueness of her talent. A particularly powerful moment comes at the opening of First Things First, where the vocal is played backwards as an introduction to the song, mirroring the the theme of the lyrics (two dead trees pulling apart in opposite directions). Lyrics, melody, rhythm, arrangement and production are all informed by a singular vision, and there is nothing extraneous anywhere in these 12 songs.

Despite the possibly forbidding avant garde credentials of the writers and performers, this often a melodic and accessible album. Dagmar's voice is something of an acquired taste, but it is worth persevering with; few albums released under the 'rock' banner have such a coherent and fully realised artistic vision. This album is on a par with Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom, Christian Vander's Wurdah Itah or Captain Beefheart's Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Uneasy listening, but highly rewarding and strongly recommended.

Art Bears - 1978 - Hopes And Fears

Art Bears
Hopes And Fears

 Áhá - Palace Courtyard
01. On Suicide    
02. The Dividing Line    
03. Joan    
04. Maze    
05. In Two Minds
 Mer - Irrigated Land    
06. Terrain    
07. The Tube    
08. The Dance    
09. Pirate Song    
10. Labyrinth
11. Riddle    
12. Moeris, Dancing    
13. Piers    

14. Silence    

 Bonus Tracks
15. The Riddle    
16. First Things First    
17. March From The Dance    
18. The Hermit    

- Fred Frith / guitars, violin, viola, piano, harmonium, xylophone, bass
- Chris Cutler / drums, electric drums, percussives, noise
- Dagmar Krause / singing

Guest musicians:
- Lindsay Cooper / bassoon, oboe, soprano sax, recorder
- Tim Hodgkinson / organ, clarinet, piano
- Georgie Born / bass, cello, voice

Art Bears' debut album emerged from the same sessions that produced the brilliant Henry Cow album Western Culture, and indeed the remaining members of the last Henry Cow line up are present as guest musicians and occasional co-writers. The album was, and remains, a remarkable achievement, and had a phenomenal impact when it was first released, but with hindsight it was the first step towards an artistic vision that would only be fully realised on subsequent albums.

A number of common elements recurred throughout Art Bears discography: Chris Cutler's lyrics were indebted to Brecht and informed by an interest in the middle ages, mythology and left wing politics; Frith's music reflected his interest in assorted arcane folk traditions, which would also influence his solo career; and Dagmar interpreted their vision like an updated Lotte Lenya. The move towards relatively normal songs took some people by surprise, but on his website Cutler stresses that he and Frith had both started out in straightforward rock groups, so the desire to play short songs had always been there.

The album opens with a short version of the Brecht/Eisler song On Suicide, which Dagmar declaims over a stark cello/bassoon/clarinet arrangement. This lasts for less than 2 minutes, but effectively sets the stage for the band's subsequent career. The Dividing Line brings in the full band and a theme that is to recur throughout the album (it originated from the backing track of the Cooper composition Riddle being played at half speed) and is another sparse, Brechtian song. Joan is introduced by a searing Frith electric guitar motif and retells the story of Joan of Arc, and is one of the pieces which would not have sounded out of place on a Henry Cow album. The most remarkable song closed side 1 of the vinyl original, and at over 8 minutes long In 2 Minds was the longest track Art Bears recorded. The lyrics were inspired by Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing's book Sanity, Madness and the Family and the music alternates between a slowly strummed and slightly out of tune acoustic guitar and a rock out which recalls The Who - it's midway between Pinball Wizard and Won't Get Fooled Again, and all the more effective for being so unexpected.

The second half of the album continues in a similar vein, including two uptempo instrumental tracks (to be strictly accurate, one contains a wordless vocal by Dagmar) which would sit nicely on the Frith solo albums Gravity or Speechless - hummable, danceable but still 100% Rock In Opposition. Some of the lengthy instrumental breaks also sound like a RIO take on traditional country dancing tunes, such as the lengthy coda to The Dance - Frith playing a mournful jig over Cutler's strict tempo snare and bass drum, with Dagmar slowly chanting a counter melody in the background. Elsewhere, The Pirate Song is sung to an imaginative piano accompinament played and composed by Tim Hodgkinson, while the subsequent Labyrinth (Daedalus Lamenting) pushes Cutler's hyperactive drumming to the fore. The album closes with a brief piece about the Medieaval English poem Piers the Ploughman, with an arrangement which recalls On Suicide and which also points to the direction of Winter Songs, their next album.

Compared with what was to follow, Hopes and Fears is something of a flawed gem. There are pieces which sound more like Henry Cow or Frith solo, and the presence of additional musicians makes some of the arrangements sound comparatively cluttered (all future Art Bears releases featured only the core trio). Taken in isolation, it's one of the key albums of the Rock In Opposition movement and shows that, although Henry Cow had ground to a halt, the key members were only just beginning to realise their potential as composers and performers. Highly recommended.

Jupu Group - 1975 - Ahmoo

Jupu Group

01. The Seeker (5:11)
02. Ennystymätön (6:47)
03. Ahmoo (9:56)
04. Moment (8:01)
05. Two for Eeva (8:03)
06. Drops of Rain (7:13)

- Juhani Poutanen / violin, percussion
- Janne Louhivuori / guitars
- Jukka Linkola / keyboards, percussion
- Ilkka Hanski / bass
- Urpo Sorvali / drums, percussion

JUPU GROUP was a somewhat typical finnish prog band, as most bands in Finland (in the 70's) played some form of jazz-rock/fusion. The band was based around the violinist Juhani "Jupu" Poutanen (hence the name Jupu Group). The music in their only album "Ahmoo" is much in the vein of WEATHER REPORT and RETURN TO FOREVER, but no plagiarism here, and the group managed to have a sound of their own for the most part.

By the time "Ahmoo" was released, the band had already disbanded as Juhani had moved to Rovaniemi to continue his studies. It's worth a spin, if you like the bands mentioned earlier, but finding "Ahmoo" might be a difficult task, as I believe it was never released on cd.

The first two tracks are much funkier than I expected, giving the lead role to Janne Louhivuori's electric guitar. 'The Seeker' is written by drummer Upi Sorvali and 'Ennystymätön' - another nonsense word! - , with its groove reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition', by violinist Juhani Poutanen. The 10- minute title track is quite different: a serene and a bit aimlessly wandering arty-farty focusing on piano and percussion. The A side is a disappointment for me as I expected airy & melodic fusion in the style of Jean Luc Ponty (foir the presence of violin). Technically this group is excellent, however.

'Moment' (by Poutanen) finally features the awesome violin virtuosity. Especially this 8-minute highlight track is on the level of the American fusion of the time (Weather Report, Return To Forever...).The bassist Ilkka Hanski has composed 'Two for Eeva', which starts rather boringly with the bass taking the solistic role. Usually bass solos in jazz always bore me, by the way. Little by little the track grows to be more interesting, including various phases. I like the lively piano in it. The closing track 'Drops of Rain' (by keyboard player Jukka Linkola) begins quietly in a meditative manner, and it also remains very delicate and impressionistic, evoking images of soft summer rain.

Even though I was mildly disappointed at first, due to my own expectations, I believe this unique album is a grower, definitely it's full of original and fine musicianship.

Karel Bogard & Co - 1971 - Blues From Over The Border

Karel Bogard & Co 
Blues From Over The Border 


01. Brownsferry Blues
02. Done Lived With The Blues
03. Morning Sun 132
04. Don't You Leave Me Alone
05. I.C. Blues
06. Crumble's Farm   
07. Rollin' Blues
08. Me And The Devil
09. Bukkha White Is Not Dead
10. Danny's Tune
11. See See Rider
12. Tennessee Rag
13. Crowley Two-Step

Karel Bogard - Lead Vocal, Acoustic Guitar, Kazoo, Mandolin, Piano
Bottleneck Chris - Acoustic Guitar, National Slide Guitar, Vocals
Roland Van Campenhout - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Flute, Harmonica
Roger Mason - Accordion, Spoons, Triangle, Vocals
Derroll Adams - Banjo

Bogard is sometimes referred to as Karel Bogaert, and the first tenuous thread connected to the latter name is that someone using that moniker authored a book called Blues Lexicon: Blues, Cajun, Boogie Woogie, Gospel that was published in 1971 by Antwerp publishing house Standaard Uitgeverij. The book remains a popular overview to this day of exactly the strains of music Bogard covers so well on the album and is even considered as canon by some European academics due to the thorough and comprehensive biographical data of hundreds of American folk musicians included therein. Currently it's cited as one of the main references on the Dutch Wikipedia entry for Blues.

The following info is from Belgian Pop & Rock Archives, translated from Dutch by Google and edited by yours truly:

    In the late sixties Karel Bogard was proficient in various instruments, playing in Leuven (he sang, played guitar, piano, and even a hundred others) in various blues, skiffle and jugbands, like Free Sound Community en Crowin Rooster.

    After graduation he went to Paris to study Chinese but while in the French capital, he kept himself busy in musical circles. Through contacts with Alexis Corner (Bogard was playing in his band at the time) and Memphis Slim he struck a deal with the French label Barclay. The LP "Blues from over the Border" appeared in France in 1971, including Roland van Campenhout and other guests.

    In the mid-seventies in Ghent he started his own record label: Dwarf Records. Originally created solely to issue the Kandahar LP, Bogard he soon found a number of kindred souls so in a short time the label also included Banzaï, Tjens Couter and TC Matic from Arno.

    "In the years '70-'75 Ghent was a hive of activity," he said in the book "Wit-lof from Belgium," and jazz musician Pol Van Gijseghem was involved in various projects. There emerged an interaction with many groups: Bunker, Quark, Red Mole .. etc.. Rock and jazz had found each other." Karel Bogard thus became one of the main figures of jazz-rock in Belgium (Hugo Spencer, 5th Ball Gang, Marc Moulin, Placebo, Sam Suffy). Bogard's main project in these years was Kandahar, with guitarist Jef De Visscher and Pol Van Gijseghem, who released two LP's in the blues/jazz/rock idiom.

    Simultaneously, he also recorded solo (the LP "From Dusk until Dawn" in 1975) or combined forces with other companions as The Karel Bogard Blues Band in 1976 with "Still Hooked On The Blues" and as Karel Bogard's Highway Band in 1977 with "Step," featuring the single "Sweet Lady Society".

    Dwarf went bankrupt, however, and was swallowed by E.M.I./ I.B.C. (with whom they already had a distribution deal). This marked the end of Kandahar and a bitter Bogard quit music, combining his studies in engineering and oriental languages to land a job with a dredging company in Singapore.

When in Singapore, he likely worked for one of the two Belgian dredging companies doing business there, Dredging International or Baggerwerken Decloedt, which have since merged and now operate under the name Dredging, Environmental & Marine Engineering. In 1997 he was the President of the Belgian & Luxembourg Association of Singapore , a social club for expats and he seems to have returned to Europe at the turn of the century, serving on the board of directors from 2001-2007 for Dutch environmental product company PMV. Other than that, there is no reference to any further musical projects with the participation of Mr. Bagard/Bogaert.

Which is a shame really, since his obvious passion and talent for music seem to have borne the brunt of his distaste at "the biz" and an older, wiser, worldly Karel would likely bring the depth of his experience to his lyrics. Roughly in his 60s, these days he would probably more clearly exude the blues feeling beyond the note-perfect execution of its stylistic idioms. Although it was obvious Karel felt the blues on this recording, it doesn't necessary follow that the listener will feel his blues.

For a student of the African-American roots music techniques this document may be almost as valuable as original field recordings from the early part of the century (which Bogard had obviously pored over himself). For purists who demand their blues artists be directly from the delta (or at the very least Chicago), this will be anathema. For casual listeners who don't care much about the "who" or "when" or "what" when it comes to their blues, they'll likely enjoy the "how" displayed here by Bogard and his companions, mostly because Karel and companions so obviously enjoyed themselves while recording.

Blues From Across the Border seems to have steadily increased in price until it maxed out in value in 2007 - Popsike gives eBay auction results of 45€ in 2003, 80€ in 2006 with prices ranging from 100€ to 200€ in 2007 on eBay and at various online record stores. Since then, it seems to have dropped with most pricing reverting back the 40€ to 80€ range.

Kandahar - 1978 - Pictures From the Past

Pictures From the Past


01. D.O.N.
02. Azucar
03. Virus
04. Mise Au Château
05. Synchron
06. Feeling Blue
07. Pictures From The Past
08. Darkness
09. Floating Pearls
10. Theme From 'DE TUIN DER LUSTEN' (garden of delight)

Jeff De Visscher (lead & acoustic guitar, sitar, vocals)
Jean Pierre Claeys (bass),
Etienne Delaruye (drums, glochenspiel, tympani, cello, tambourine, vibes, piano, syntheziser, strings, clavinet, marimba, vocals),
Jacky Eddyn (saxophones, strings, moog, harmo-sax),
Marc Van Herzeele (drums, timbales, vocals)

Third and last album is recorded without the help of Karel Bogard.
A fine album....a little more 'etheric' and less jazzy.

Kandahar - 1975 - In the Court of Catharina Squeezer

In the Court of Catharina Squeezer

01. Jungle Dreams (6:17)
02. I'll Still Have My Soul (4:44)
03. L's Mood (3:53)
04. Song For Catherina (6:06)
05. Lahti Jumps (3:04)
06. The Day I Came To Life (16:18)

Jeff De Visscher (lead & acoustic guitar, sitar, vocals)
Karel Bogard (piano, clavinet, Davoli & A.R.P."2701" synthezisers, gongs & bells, vocals),
Jean Pierre Claeys (bass),
Etienne Delaruye (drums, glochenspiel, tympani, cello, tambourine, vibes, piano, syntheziser, strings, clavinet, marimba, vocals),

Difficult not thinking of Crimson's debut album when citing Kandahar's second album, but it is only a humorous wink art Fripp's gang, rather than a real homage to their music. Indeed the unchanged quintet (the two added windblowers not being permanent players) delivers their second batch of sonic delicacies recorded in the late 75 spring, but they changed a bit the accompanying toppings, giving it a slightly funkier feel, but we're still into delightful jazz-rock with a tad of Kent's county capital. With their suggestive artwork, once again Kandahar proves non-sense humour and surrealism are Belgian trademarks.
The opening Jungle Dreams confirm the funky thing, as we could be out of Philly or Isaac's Hayestack. Indeed the track oozes of De Visscher's funky guitar, Bogard's ultra-symphonic ARP Synth and Power Of Tower horn section. The following Still Have My Soul is probably as much Memphis Tennessee (Stax records) a track they'll go. LA Mood is a horn-laden track, but thankfully does have the funky flavour of the previous tracks. Song For Catherina is as close to being to the title track, and if it wasn't for a cheap-sounding synth line, this might have been one of the album's highlights, even though the last part is sung.

The flipside starts on the slow (at first anyway) Lehti Jumps and hearing that track evolve into a frenzied Colosseum-type track is a pure joy, and it's just too bad that the track ends in a an aborted manner the way it does. The 16-mins Day I Came To Life is obviously the album's highlight and the group's chef d'oeuvre. And they knew it too as they'll even go through the trouble of hiring a string quartet for just one section, but the fact is that evertuy section of that track is pure bliss as it goes from almost baroque (the horn entering the track and repeated later on) to excellent jazz-rock, but plenty of progressive rock just the way we like it. With this epic, Kandahar sounds like themselves and nobody else except for a tad of Quebecois prog between Maneige and Harmonium (the passage with choirs and flute), but I doubt this these groups ever got to Belgian (even Flemish) ears back then. This is their crowning achievement, but it'sc also sad they never kept up the effort, because it's likely they would've done more of these.

After this album, keyboardist Karel Bogard will travel to the eastern Asia and eventually end up in Far- East Asia for a while, studying philosophy before coming back. But he's actually moved over there on a permanent basis for more than two decades. In the meantime, ITCOFCS is a worthy successor to Sliced Ham, and in some ways it easily surpasses the debut album. Should you one day chance upon it, don't hesitate for a second on either the debut or this one.

Kandahar - 1974 - Long Live the Sliced Ham

Long Live the Sliced Ham

01. Down at the Finckle's (4:28)
02. Eyes of Glass (5:37)
03. Outside of Reality (8:05)
04. Survivin' Boogie (3:20)
05. The Walkin' Piles (4:18)
06. The Hobbit (3:10)
07. The Fancy Model (5:40)
08. When She Flies Away (8:41)

Jeff De Visscher (lead & acoustic guitar, sitar, vocals)
Karel Bogard (piano, clavinet, Davoli & A.R.P."2701" synthezisers, gongs & bells, vocals)
Jean Pierre Claeys (bass)
Etienne Delaruye (drums, glochenspiel, tympani, cello, tambourine, vibes, piano, syntheziser, strings, clavinet, marimba, vocals)

This group, hailing from Ghent (in Western part of Belgium), played some rather adventurous rock music and formed in 73, and were a cross of jazz-rock with Canterbury influences and sometimes a touch of Zeuhl. They released on their own private label Dwarf two albums, which were quite in the avant-garde progressive rock of the time (sounding a bit like a cross of Placebo, Pazop and Cos), before going broke.

In their heydays, Kandahar was often favourably compared with Supersister, but once they folded due to lack of finances again, leader Karel Bogaert, an engineer, returned to his professional acrtivities in the Far-East, but released a few solo albums. This left Jeff Devisscher at the helm of Kandahar, and they will take time to re-group. After a few years, they managed to release an Ep, than another album, but clearly their moment had gone. None of their albums have ever been re-issued on vinyl or on Cd format until 2009, when Sony did surprise everyone by reissuing the first two albums, making Kandahar records very sought-after for almost two decades.

Coming from Belgium's fourth city, Ghent, Kandahar chose its name after the third city of Afghanistan, sign of keyboardist & leader Karel Bogard's love of Eastern philosophies, flavours and etc.The quintet, a standard prog quartet plus a wind player, played a pleasant humorous jazz-rock that could be easily related to Canterbury's best moments with the invariable songwriting team of guitarist De Visscher and Bogard reminiscent of Caravan meeting Hatfield. Coming in an orange and pink speed-related futuristic artworks, and humorously titled LLTSH was recorded in November 74 and the group invited many guests to make this album quite a pleasant debut.
Starting on the smooth-gliding instrumental Down At Finckle's, Kandahar has three frontmen to showcase and here Jacky Eddin that gets the early call but De Vusscher's guitar takes a solid revenge just after. The lengthy Eye Of Glass is a striking difference to its fore runner, the group constantly changing tempo and moods, where it was absolutely not the case previously. Here, the hero is bassist Cleays, but Bogard,s songwriting is the key among his keyboards. Influence-wise, Supersister or Hatfield are not far away here. Again an ever-changing tempoed track, Outside Of Reality is a rare sung track where Eddin gets help from guests to boast a very brassy attack. Surviving Boogie is the obvious hit on the album (it was a single twice), but it's clearly the weakest track, developing a fast reedy blues with relatively weak vocals (this is not a strong point of Kandahar, but it's generally not too catastrophic.. Just weak) and gain strong brass section.

The flipside starts on the weird and fast Walkin Piles, but it's mostly the dissonant saxes and flutes in the background of demented percussion passages that draw the attention of the listener. Too bad the beat stays too rigid in its Magma-itude, though. This could've been much better exploited with a better production. Another instrumental beauty is Hobbit, the gentler track on this album, filled with smooth keyboards. The following Fancy Model has a difficult intro, but once the track is settled, it turns into an infernal inferno filled with spiralling swirls of flames filled with fire, and Eddin's blowing buddies are back to let us know that Kandahar was a force to be reckoned with, especially when they all shut up to let drummer Delaruye shows his chops with Cleays, before reprising. Very enthralling and Canterbury- esque. The closing When She Flies Away is not the album's strongest track, and it has a déjà-vu feeling, especially when the vocals kick in, we get to think of Hendrix's Hey Joe.

True the group's weaker vocals might be an embarrassment (to some), but the rest of their music is nearly spotless and certainly the best thing they've done artistically. Their vinyl albums have become rare and expensive and no official Cd reissue. had happened since Sony surprised us with a cheap reissue.