Univers Zero (Belgium) – “Relaps (Archives 1984 – ‘86)”
Cheer-Accident – “Fear Draws Misfortune” (Avant-garde / Progressive Rock)
For its first release on Cuneiform Records, the US band Cheer-Accident created “Fear Draws Misfortune”, a CD featuring 9 tracks of astonishingly beautiful, lush and captivatingly complex post-rock/art rock. On it, band members Thymme Jones, Jeff Libersher and Alex Perkolup team up with 15 other musicians and vocalists from the rock/ jazz/ improv/ avant-classical undergrounds of Chicago and beyond (contributing violinist/ vocalist Carla Kihlstedt hails from Oakland’s Sleepytime Guerilla Museum). A coherent and cohesive artist statement, the CD interweaves superb musicianship, stunning vocals, and an epic and panoramic range of ideas, styles and studio techniques to create masterwork of creative art rock that should bring the band attention well beyond Chicago’s shores. Widely recognized as Chicago’s ruling experimental collective, Cheer-Accident are the elder statesmen of and the provocative catalysts behind Chicago’s fertile and stylistically-diverse music scene – a scene that gave birth to post-rock, math-rock, post-punk and other important late 20 th Century indie rock genres. At the helm of the Windy City’s underground since the early 1980s, Cheer-Accident have remained ceaselessly innovative while releasing approximately 15 recordings, playing countless concerts, collaborating with numerous other Chicago players, and creating a weekly Chicago cable TV show since 1993, the Dada-esque Cool Clown Ground. Led by drummer/ composer/ vocalist Thymme Jones, Cheer-Accident may well be the most fearless and defiantly independent band of musical provocateurs on America’s so-called ‘independent’ music scene. Mixing and juxtaposing musical elements to create unprecedented combinations, introducing familiar ingredients to unfamiliar contexts, Cheer Accident push, prod and probe at the boundaries of musical conventions, genre form, audience/ artist interaction, and, at times, good taste, with a combination of devil-may-care bravura, intellectual seriousness, the iconoclasm of Frank Zappa and unbridled, child-like creativity. By “cheer accident”, the results of these daring boundary-bursting experiments are brilliant, and bold.
Gutbucket – “A Modest Proposal” (Jazz Rock / Punk Jazz)
Having blown out Carnegie Hall with an orchestra (“a density worthy of a Led Zeppelin epic”, raved The New York Times), been proclaimed accidental forefathers of the death jazz movement by The London Guardian , and called “clearly out of their minds” by Guitar Player , it is perhaps not surprising that Gutbucket 's new album should be about eating babies. A nod to Jonathan Swift's 1729 satirical treatise on classist cannibalism, “A Modest Proposal” is the Brooklyn quartet's fourth album. Slowing down occasionally (as on the opening Head Goes Thud), the band's interests are as far-reaching as ever, peppering songs with cosmic-skonk guitar (Carnivore ), double-quartet call-and-response (Side Effects May Include), and string quartet arrangements now re-done for bass clarinet and band (More Bigger Better Faster with Cheese). A Modest Proposal solidifies Gutbucket's place at the forefront of a revitalized avant-garde music scene in New York, where sparkling new venues pack in 20-somethings at Steve Reich gigs and Bang on a Can 's all-night music marathons draw crowds for 'Stockhausen at Sunrise'. In orbit around the venerable Bang collective (for whom Thomson composed Seasonal Disorder performed at their 2008 People's Commissioning Fund Concert) Gutbucket's downtown pedigree is vast. Founded by Rockwin, saxophonist Ken Thomson, guitarist Ty Citerman, and drummer Paul Chuffo between shifts at Columbia University's vital radio station, WKCR , Gutbucket built their live rep in New York clubs before spreading across east coast college towns ; trips to Europe soon followed, with over a dozen tours in 19 countries. The group attacks their music with the ferocity usually reserved for punk, and the humorous abstraction of art-rock, despite having earned their jazz bona fides. Though the band might seem rooted in the genre exploding of New York’s downtown (their 2001 debut, InsomniacsDream , was released on the Knitting Factory house imprint), their shift to louder sounds began with their controversially titled Dry Humping the American Dream (released in 2003 in Europe on Enja and domestically in 2004 on Bang on a Can's Cantaloupe).
Fast & Bulbous – “Waxed Oop” (Jazz Rock / Blues)
“There Ain’t No Label for This Bottle” – Don Van Vilet, Captain Beefheart's music is the quintessential 'outsider art music' of the second half of the 20th century. Fast 'N' Bulbous offers a unique slant on the songbook of one of contemporary music's most idiosyncratic figures. Fast ‘N’ Bulbous is a Captain Beefheart repertory project led by two innovators of the new music scene: rock guitarist and improviser Gary Lucas, who was guitarist for Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band in its latter years (1980-82), and composer, jazz saxophonist and improviser Phillip Johnston, who co-led the renowned Microscopic Septet, widely regarded as one of the best jazz bands of the 1980s. In 2005, Cuneiform released Fast ’N’ Bulbous’ first-ever CD, Pork Chop Blue Around the Rind , which received a torrent of praise worldwide from both the rock and jazz press – and from both Beefheart fans and those who did not like Beefheart’s music the first time around. “Waxed Oop” is Fast 'N' Bulbous’ second album. As on Pork Chop, most of the tunes are orchestrated with a horn section used in lieu of Beefheart's gritty vocals and with improvisation incorporated into the fold. On Waxed Oop, the band energetically revives the spirit and sound of Captain Beefheart’s music, cart wheeling through tunes that are as gutsy as they are cerebral, as drenched with soulful blues as they are filled with abstract sound. To celebrate the releases of Waxed Oop, Fast ’N’ Bulbous will tour Europe in March 2009. Waxed Oop is part of Cuneiform’s “Contemporary Masters” series, featuring groups whose repertory includes the works of such groundbreaking composers/ artists/ bands as Albert Ayler, Miles Davis, Captain Beefheart, John McLaughlin / Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa . None of these groups are tribute bands attempting to replicate the original material; all treat the Masters’ original music in new, highly original and often enlightening ways.
Forgas Band Phenomena – “Axis of Madness” (Jazz Rock / Fusion)
Composer/ drummer Patrick Forgas has been hailed as “the French answer to the Canterbury scene” ever since his debut 1977 release Cocktail (recorded with members of Magma and Zao). Since the late 1990s, as leader of the Forgas Band Phenomena, he has helped ignite interest in Canterbury-infused jazz-rock among a new generation of young French jazz musicians and fans. Besides Forgas, most of the musicians in the Forgas Band Phenomena are in their 20s or 30s, and they enliven his compositions with an energy and verve that make the music sound fresh. For “L'Axe du Fou/ Axis of Madness” , his 4th Forgas Band Phenomena release, Forgas leads an 8 piece instrumental ensemble (dual saxes, trumpet, violin, guitar, keyboards, bass and drums) through epic-length, complex and melodic compositions that mix ambitious progressive rock structures and intense jazz soloing. L'Axe du Fou / Axis of Madness is the Forgas Band Phenomena’s 4th release and it’s second on Cuneiform. In 2005, Cuneiform released Soleil 12, a dynamic fusion of jazz soloing and rock structures, and of music from the ‘70s and the current day, it received critical acclaim in both the jazz and the progressive rock music press. L'Axe du Fou / Axis of Madness is a studio recording of new material written in the past three years, with the sole exception of the intro to "La Clef", dating from the late 1990s.
Univers Zero – “Relaps (Archives 1984 – ‘86)” (RIO / Chamber Rock / Classical)
The Belgian band Univers Zero is legendary for its ominous, unsettling and uncompromising musical vision – a sound and stance that Keyboard describes as “Chamber Music for the Apocalypse”. Simultaneously medieval & modern, its distinctive, dark and elegantly beautiful instrumental music fused classical and rock to give birth to an unprecedented and remarkably prescient new musical genre. Today, several decades after Univers Zero first forged its unique “chamber rock”, critics cite its oeuvre as the precursor to the best avant-garde rock and classical music of the present day, from post-rock to the numerous late 20th /early 21st C. classical chamber ensembles integrating rock into their repertoire. When Cuneiform recently released a remastered reissue of the band’s self-titled debut album, critics who heard the band’s music for the first time called it a “revelation, the hidden source for every one of today’s avant-garde rock bands ”[Organ]. Back in the 1980s, however, in the band’s second decade of existence, Univers Zero stood very much alone, its music well beyond and outside that time. Featuring rock and classical instrumentation and sophisticated, passionate compositions, its dark and daring instrumental music stood in bold contrast to the artistic and cultural wasteland that characterized much ‘80s rock music. This new Univers Zero CD, called “Relaps (Archives 1984-‘86)” , is an archival project that documents the band in live performance during the mid-late 1980s. The band’s 11th CD, it is the only release of live material from the period during which Univers Zero recorded the two studio releases UZED [1984-Cryonic, 1988-Cuneiform], and Heatwave [1987-Cuneiform]. During that time, with Denis at its helm and some of best musicians from Europe’s avant-garde at its instruments, Univers Zero created what was perhaps the boldest, most sonically powerful and above all, most overtly Rock-oriented music of its lengthy career. The stellar performances and astounding music on Relaps are proof positive that Univers Zero was one of – and perhaps the – most adventurous rock band then playing on the international rock stage. Relaps captures the live band that caught Cuneiform’s ear more than 20 years ago, leading it to sign Univers Zero and release its 6th album, Heatwave , thus beginning a fruitful relationship that continues to the present day.