Author Topic: Rock In Opposition (RIO)  (Read 1500 times)

Absorb the anus burn

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Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« on: September 14, 2009, 11:40:32 AM »
I noticed a few references to RIO in the Krautrock thread, performed a search, but could not find an actual thread on avant prog - which is probably my favourite sub-genre of progressive music outside of Kraut.

For the uninitiated, the term Rock In Opposition was coined around an alternative music festival funded by the arts council and taking place at the massive Drury Lane theatre in London 1978 (during the run of A Chorus Line, I think). The groups involved had a dogma-like manifesto, which concerned the ability to make music cheaply and quickly without record company interference.

The Drury Lane show featured 5 bands: Henry Cow and Universe Zero are the best known, I suppose. The other three were Etron Fou Lelouban, Samla Mammas Manna and Stormy Six.

Although the movement was 'born' in 1978, this is only part of the picture as many of these artists had been releasing music in the 'RIO style' since the last 60s... So RIO is a slippery genre. For instance, Henry Cow and Slapp Happy made a terrific album together in 1975 called Desperate Straights, which I feel combines the best of both bands, and is something I would rather listen to than 'Leg End' or 'Casablanca Moon'.

Some folk even consider Frank Zappa the first RIO artist and there are plenty of nineties and noughties bands working in the genre. I have a friend who insists 'Mr. Bungle' are RIO, but I'm not entirely convinced.

Outside of the original Drury Lane set, The Art Bears and Art Zoyd are worth exploring... One of the most interesting and obscure 'second wave' RIO bands is Aksak Maboul, whose songs have an ethereal, fairytale quality.

So what does RIO sound like? Hard to say, because all the bands are different, but expect some of the following... Music hall, jazz fusion, non linear song structures, brass bands, circus motifs, virtuoso playing, a taste of Italian symphonic prog, a healthy dose of Zeuhl & chamber prog, plus Python-esque humour or even Spike Jones.

I would love to hear some RIO recommendations, especially anything obscure that you might have found on MP3 blogs, but my two essential RIO LPs are by the same group - Samla Mammas Manna.

Måltid (1973) and Klossa Knapitatet (1974) are two of the finest albums to come out of Sweden. Both highly melodic and original with astonishing changes in mood and tempo. Often fun, sometimes frightening and always the right side of silly, which isn't as easy as some people think. Ignore the language barrier (my Swedish is limited to swearwords thrown at the Bishop by the kid in 'Fanny And Alexander') - this music is too good to ignore.

Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2009, 04:17:41 PM »
I've got a few albums that fall into this genre, including some Thinking Plague, Henry Cow (inlcuding Desperate Straights), Bob Drake, Hail, 5UUs and an album by a Swedish Band called Fortangte Hushaltsarbete (or something like that!). Of the albums by the bands listed above, my favourites are Hunger's Teeth by 5UUs and In Extremis by Thinking Plague. The Hail album, which is quite poppy in a funny sort of way, is quite excellent too! The downside to this stuff is that it frequently hits an incredible groove or chord sequence before frustratingly dissolving again in a load of discordant wibbling. I've not heard Samla Mammas Manna, so I'm quite tempted to 'check them out' now...!

Absorb the anus burn

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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2009, 12:24:39 PM »
Thanks Neville. You've given me some great leads there. Hunger's Teeth by 5UUs is totally new to me. I've heard of Thinking Plague, but never heard their music. I must remedy that asap. Your comment about the incredible grooves that suddenly crumble into weirdness is a great way to describe RIO. It's certainly true of many of the bands I consider part of the genre.

I can't tell you how much I love Samla Mammas Manna. Måltid is the one that gets reviewed a lot on RYM and Progarchives, but Klossa Knapitatet is the best SMM album to start with. Original, melodic, leftfield music at its best. I shelled out a fair bit for a vinyl copy of this (raising the £ by selling my big toe to medical experiments or something) and despite a lifelong limp, it's one of the best investments I have made. The cover is weird even for 70s prog standards and the music inside is sublime.

Do you know Stormy 6? Another RIO band I have yet to hear, but have a great reputation.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2009, 01:52:21 PM »
I'll write more when I'm less tired, but Univers Zero really are incredible. I bagged a 4-gig torrent of RIO stuff from somewhere a while back, and it's chock full of gems.

Also, get amongst the Sounds Of The Apocalypse podcast, as it plays tons of great obscure RIO / NWW list-y stuff.


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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2009, 02:11:22 PM »
A good primer for RIO is the Recommended Records Sampler from 1982. here's a track listing:
Side A
   1. Vogel: "Flaschenzug"
   2. Faust: "Extract 5 from Faust Party Three: 'The Voice of the Pumpkin' "
   3. Art Bears: "All Hail!"
   4. Stormy Six: "Reparto Novit‡"
   5. The Homosexuals: "Walk Before Imitate"
   6. Joseph Racaille & Patrick Portella: "On ne Peut Plus Compter sur ses Doigts"
   7. Feliu Gasul: "*"
Side B
   1. The Black Sheep: "Strangelove"
   2. Univers Zero: "Influences"
   3. Aksak Maboul & The Honeymoon Killers: "Boss de Crosses dans le Doulos"
   4. The Work: "Houdini"
   5. Henry Cow: "Slice"
   6. Henry Cow: "Viva Pa Ubu"
   7. Decibel: "Radio Extract"
Side C
   1. Art Zoyd: "Simulacres"
   2. The Muffins: "Two Extracts from 'Chronometers' "
   3. Heiner Goebbels: "Berlin Ku-Damm 12 April 1981"
   4. Amos: "Steer Clear of England"
   5. Conventum: "Commerce Nostalgique"
   6. Hector Zazou & ZNR: "Vera C"
Side D
   1. This Heat: "Pool"
   2. The Residents: "Walter Westinghouse"
   3. R. Stevie Moore: "Pedestrian Hop" & "Copy Me"
   4. Ron Pate: "I Talk to My Haircut"
   5. Picchio Dal Pozzo: "Uccelin del Bosco"
   6. Robert Wyatt: "The Internationale"
Recommended Records was the idea of Chris Cutler; drummer with Henry Cow, Art Bears, Cassiber, Pere Ubu et al. It was originally a mail order catalogue, with a review of each record "recommended"; they only sold music that they could endorse. Aside from the RIO bands they recommended some "heritage" records, and so you could also find Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Faust, Van Dyke Parks etc alongside more current bands like This Heat, Pere Ubu, The Homosexuals & The Residents. Then they expanded into record production, releasing an amazing array of music including quality reissues of Faust's catalogue (their debut record in transparent vinyl, in a transparent sleeve, as originally). Other favourites of mine issued on Recommended include Ceux Au Dehors by Univers Zero (YOU MUST HEAR THIS ALBUM!!!), Les Flots Bleu by Patrick Portella & Joseph Racaille (Satiesque songs and performances on voice piano & clarinet plus one side of clarinet-only instrumentals; beautiful stuff), Barricades by ZNR (Hector Zazou 'n' Joseph Racaille) - more Satiesque madness, & my first taste of Sun Ra!!! - Nuits De La Fondation Maeght Volume 1 (a record that changed my life, but so have many other I first encountered at Recommended's shop in Wandsworth Road - the first time I heard This Heat's debut album was there ["what the fuck is THIS????"]).


Firstly, take a look over on ReR Megacorps website; they have kept the Recommended flame burning, and each record comes with a helpful review and, of course, their endorsement.

Get a copy of Chris Cutler's book; File Under Popular. This book caused the NME to have a meeting as to whether to review it or not, deciding not to, but plundering it relentlessly thereafter. One of the best books about music ever written (despite Cutler's laborious style).

Cassiber - a miracle band, creating "songs" and structures from out of the blue. Collective improvisation toward creating a coherent musical form. Their first album, Man Or Monkey is a must. They fall away from the purity of purpose of Man Or Monkey for subsequent albums, but the music is always superb.

Sogennantes Linksradickales Blasorchester - (name roughly translated: So-called Left-Radical Brass Band) Heiner Goebbels & Alfred Harth of Cassiber's first band. A big band that tackle Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, Hans Eisler, Free Jazz & Noise with equal fervour.

...from the same stable - Heiner Goebbels & Alfred23Harth(sic) - Goebbels Heart; features guest appearances from Dagmar Krause and some amazing mixtures of Acoustic,  Electro & Avant Garde; expect the unexpected.

The Work: Tim Hodgkinson's (Henry Cow) "rock" band. This Heat meets Trout Mask Replica. Their debut single "I Hate America" is stunning, and available on the CD compilation of Woof 7 Inches (the title of the CD). Or find it on the CD reissue of the band's debut album Slow Crimes (worth a listen, indeed).

More later. I Love RIO (or "Recommended", as I prefer) music. We must include Zeuhl in here, I would think.

One last recommendation:

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum are a newish (still current) (from Orlando, Ca) have captured elements of the RIO sound (even doing This Heat cover versions onstage!!) and have four albums available now. Worth looking on Dime for films of their gigs, especially circa 2005, when they featured a dancer in their act, caged, who represented the last human being; the gig being presented as a lecture.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Sleep Is Wrong


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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2009, 10:27:59 PM »
The groups involved had a dogma-like manifesto, which concerned the ability to make music cheaply and quickly without record company interference.

I'm not sure "cheaply" or "quickly" properly explain the position. After all, Chris Cutler has written at length about the use of the recording studio as a tool for composition (and Henry Cow's 2nd album, Unrest, took this direction on several tracks). Look at the bands he's championed, like Faust, The Residents, R.Stevie Moore & This Heat; the one thing they had in common was they built their own studios in which to work full time. This Heat, particularly recorded EVERYTHING they did, but we only have two albums from the period when they were active as a band. That's a lot of filtering down and choices (a lot of careful listening) and processes undertaken to reduce the period from early '76 to '82 down to about 2 hours of output (2 albums, 1 single, and the Tago Mago Cassette - all else was released at later dates).

Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2009, 11:07:14 PM »
I can't add much to the discourse, but for reasons I can't remember I have two RIO posters saved on my hard drive:

Dirty Boy

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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2014, 02:13:45 PM »
This was a good thread. Can we get it going again with some more Avant-Prog recs? I've been really getting into Sleepytime and Univers Zero lately.

One band who recently released an album i'd say fits into here is PoiL. I think they sound like an unholy mix of Magma and Mike Patton.

This video for Brossaklitt makes me laugh (NWS)


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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2014, 02:16:56 PM »
Henry Cow reform tonight, along with News From Babel, for a tribute concert for Lindsay Cooper.

The confirmed lineup features:
Alfred Harth
Anne-Marie Roelofs
Chris Cutler
Dagmar Krause
Fred Frith
John Greaves
Michel Berckmans from Univers Zero (bassoon)
Phil Minton
Sally Potter
Tim Hodgkinson
Veryan Weston
Zeena Parkins

Dirty Boy

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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2014, 02:18:32 PM »
« Last Edit: November 21, 2014, 02:42:48 PM by Dirty Boy »

Dirty Boy

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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2014, 10:14:26 PM »
There's apparently a recording of one of the recent Lindsay Cooper/HC tribute shows floating around. Has anyone managed to grab it? (NoSleep?). I don't have access to DIME.

There's a Henry Cow and related special on Interesting Alternative at this very moment!


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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2014, 12:21:58 AM »
Well, fuck me, there's three of them (the two in the UK + Italy). I did check after the London gig, but too early, I guess.


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Re: Rock In Opposition (RIO)
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2014, 01:44:50 PM »
Heads up, Belgian avant-pop/RIO genii Aksak Maboul. with Veronique Vincent, finally released their third album, Ex-Futur Album, this year. Originally recorded by 1983, it was never finished and why it has only been considered for release this year, I have no idea.