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Aranis (Belgium): Aranis (No label ASMLLJ001, CD, 2005)
Progressive/Classical/Folk
Linde de Groof (joint lead vocals, violin), Axelle Kennes (piano), Marjolein Cools (accordion), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin), Jana Arns (flute)
I’d always imagined Aranis to be RIO, but this dainty chamber music album is more in the folky, neoclassical vein of Flairck (or to a slightly lesser extent Julverne). Almost exclusively instrumental, intricate and occasionally fiery, it’s charming and dainty stuff displaying beautifully judged musicianship. GRADE: B–.
Aranis (Belgium): II (No label ASMLLJ002, CD, 2007)
Progressive/Classical/Folk
Axelle Kennes (piano), Marjolein Cools (accordion), Linde de Groof (violin), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin), Jana Arns (flute)
‘The secret of Aranis lies in the compelling fact that, as a listener, you are flung to and fro between the finesse of a classical concert and the excitement of a rock concert’ notes the review from ‘De Tijd’, reproduced in the booklet. I don’t hear any rock here, but I do hear absolutely stunning chamber music – all-instrumental this time round, more dynamic and dramatic than their first, and quite magnificently recorded. GRADE: B.
Aranis (Belgium): III – Songs From Mirage (Home 4446058, CD, with digipak, 2009)
Progressive/Classical/Folk
Els Van Laethem (joint lead vocals), Herlinde Ghekiere (joint lead vocals), Anne Marie Honggokosesomo (joint lead vocals), Axelle Kennes (piano), Marjolein Cools (accordion), Linde de Groof (violin), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin), Jana Arns (flute)
As the title makes clear, album number three takes them in a slightly different direction, with three guest vocalists singing in Latin on the majority of cuts. Once again boasting a stunning recording, this is a beautiful, intricate, vivid set of baroque classical music that lovers of chamber orchestras should investigate immediately. GRADE: B–.
Aranis (Belgium/USA): Roqueforte (Home 4446068, CD, with digipak, Belgium, 2009)
Progressive/Classical/Jazz
Marjolein Cools (accordion), Linde de Groof (violin), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin), Jana Arns (flute)
The addition of well-travelled RIO drummer Dave Kerman (not that he’s hugely prominent here) moves the band’s sound closer to avant-prog and emphasises their slight jazz roots. This slight change of emphasis provides another fascinating variation on their trademark neoclassical sound. GRADE: B–.
Aranis (Belgium/USA): Made In Belgium (Home 4446092, CD, with digipak, and booklet, 2012)
Progressive/Classical/Jazz
Jana Arns (lead vocals, flute), Marjolein Cools (accordion), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin, viola)
As the title suggests, this comprises recitations of works by various Belgian composers (both classical and avant-prog) rather than consisting entirely of pieces by band leader Joris Vanvinckenroye. However, from a musical standpoint it feels less adventurous than their earlier work – Kerman is gone and King Crimson’s Trey Gunn doesn’t add much as a guest – though equally refined, elegant, intricate and knotty.

GRADE: B–.

Aranis (Belgium/USA): Made In Belgium (Home 4446092, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2012)
Progressive/Classical/Jazz
Jana Arns (lead vocals, flute), Marjolein Cools (accordion), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin, viola)
Kerman is gone and King Crimson’s Trey Gunn is guesting on guitar, but this is the first Aranis album on which it feels like the band isn’t pushing forwards. Certainly, it offers beautiful chamber music – refined, elegant, intricate and knotty by turns – but it’s clear that for the most part they’re covering old ground. GRADE: B–.
Aranis (Belgium/USA): Made In Belgium II (Home 4446119, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2014)
Progressive/Classical/Jazz
Jana Arns (lead vocals, flute), Marjolein Cools (accordion), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin, viola)
Part two of the project includes a couple of actual songs, with one number taking the band into Dagmar Krause territory. Elsewhere this is a bit more varied and a bit more dynamic than usual, representing another impressive instalment of experimental chamber music.

GRADE: B–.
Aranis (Belgium/USA): Smells Like (Home 4446159, CD, with, 2017)
Progressive/Classical/Avant-Garde
Marjolein Cools (accordion), Liesbeth Lambrecht (violin, viola), Jana Arns (flute)
This is the radical step forward that the last couple of Aranis albums weren’t, though more for conceptual than musical reasons. As the title suggests, this consists entirely of Nirvana songs reworked in a chamber music style, and the results are challenging, amusing and extremely successful. GRADE: B–.

Arapacis (Canada): So Many Leapers (FX Metal FXM00012, CD, 2005)
Metal
Shelsey Jarvis (lead vocals, keyboards)
This obscure album covers a variety of metal styles, from near-doom to thrash to touches of prog (notably on the instrumental ‘Fast Fingers’). Whilst there’s nothing particularly original here, this is a consistently solid disc and sometimes very good. GRADE: C+.

Archangelica (Poland): Tomorrow Starts Today (Lynx Music LM 119 CD, CD, 2016)
Metal/Progressive
Patrycja Mizerska (principal vocals)
Bridging gothic metal and neoprogressive, this offers some nice instrumental textures, good singing and musicianship, and a few pleasant acoustic instrumentals. The downside is that it’s a little generic and rather unadventurous, but it’s decidedly above average for this kind of thing. GRADE: C+.

Arcana (Canada): Letters From A Lost Soul | Act I: The World One Forms (No label, download, 2020)
Progressive
Anna Draper (joint lead vocals)
Ignore the copious and rather pompous title: this is rather good (and not overly bombastic) sympho-prog with some nice chunky riffs. Sure, it’s a bit low-budget and the brief outbreak of death vocals doesn’t endear it to me, but there’s plenty of promise here and I wish they’d recorded more than 22 minutes of music. GRADE: C+.

Arcanes (Italy): Quiet And Stormy (Mellow MMFS 1011, CD, 1995)
Rock
Stefania Bongioanni (lead vocals, keyboards)
According to the back cover, this was issued on Mellow’s ‘Fruit Salad division’, so this is garage rock rather than prog: sometimes heavy, sometimes bluesy and sometimes delicate and mellow. The covers (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, the Troggs, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane) are a bit of a mixed bag though several work well, whilst the original songs are pretty decent. Stefania Bongioanni has a lovely voice, even though she occasionally struggles with English pronunciation (they even state in the liner notes that ‘we know our lyrics are not correct at all – we hope you’ll understand our Italian expressions’), and the playing is solid throughout, even if this is a fairly insubstantial album. GRADE: C+.

Archensiel (Italy): Archensiel (Cobra A 018, 1987)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Maria Rosa Negro (lead vocals), Roberta Tuis (violin)
This interesting progressive folk album has a very Italian feel and lots of classical and traditional references, though all the material is self-penned. However, bass and drums are widely used, along with heavy rock guitars on a few cuts; coupled with some unexpected tempo changes, this makes for an unusual and creative LP that is undercut only by the rather thin recording. GRADE: B–.
Archensiel (Italy): Piöva (Pressing details unknown, 1989)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Maria Rosa Negro (lead vocals), Roberta Tuis (violin)
The band’s second and final album is as beautifully crafted as their first, and very much its equal. I have never encountered an original 1989 pressing, or seen one offered for sale, which makes me wonder whether the CD version (Akarma AK 1044, with digibook, 2004) was the first issue of this material. The CD also includes three bonus tracks taken from their first album. GRADE: B–.

Architectural Metaphor (USA): Creature Of The Velvet Void (Black Widow BWR 019-2, CD, Italy, 1997)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Deb Young (lead vocals, drums, percussion, recorder, whistle)
This low-budget space-rock outfit unsurprisingly owe a heavy debt to Hawkwind: the disc closes with a lengthy cover of ‘The Golden Void’. However, they’re both more psychedelic and more amateurish than their idols, with less of a heavy rock feel. Their songs and instrumentals are fairly crude and not brilliantly recorded, and their cover of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ is quite strange, but this is an enjoyable example of its style and sure to please almost any space-rock fan. GRADE: C+.
Architectural Metaphor (USA): Everything You Know Is Wrong (No label JANAP-146, CD, with digipak, 2013)
Psychedelic
Andrea Aguayo (lead vocals)
This much later album, recorded by a different line-up, is rather different from Creature Of The Velvet Void. Most of the Hawkwind elements are gone, replaced by a more varied stylistic palette of psychedelic music, though still with electronics well to the fore. The result is somewhat uneven but never less than satisfying and sometimes quite transcendent on the long, trippy space-rock jams. This time round, the surprising cover is Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dreamhome a Heartache’. GRADE: B–.

Area 39 (UK): Stand Alone Together (No label, CD, 2004)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Paula Cunningham (joint lead vocals), Nicki Allan (joint lead vocals)
No surprises for guessing from the cover depicting an astronaut that this is space-rock; what is surprising is that this band never got to release anything else, as Stand Alone Together is little short of a classic. Fusing elements of Hawkwind and Ash Ra Tempel with more modern stylings reflecting innovators like In The Woods…, the disc builds a remarkable head of steam on some long, intense jams punctuated by explosions of cosmic electronic noise. Considering this was a one-off private album from a short-lived amateur band in the North of England, the end results are frequently astounding; the majestic closing cut ‘The Dreamers Dreamed’ can only be described as breathtaking. (As a footnote, beware of other releases credited to ‘Area 39’: there was a prolific dance music duo of the same name.) GRADE: B.

Arguedene (Belgium): Chante! (Sabam FRA 801511, 1981)
Folk
Marie-France Dumay (occasional vocals), Andrée Dupont (occasional vocals), Nicole Mulquin (occasional vocals), Françoise Massot (bugle)
Housed in a striking black, white and green silkscreened sleeve, this obscure album offers pleasant traditional folk/rock with entirely self-penned material. Linked by sound effects, the songs have a mediaeval edge and some interesting arrangement touches, though some listeners may struggle with the slightly unusual male vocalist who dominates side one (imagine Malicorne’s Gabriel Yacoub with a more lugubrious troubadour style) and an outburst of yodelling. Side two, which has mainly female vocals, is vastly superior and contains some truly beautiful moments. GRADE: C+.

Aries (Italy): Aries (Mellow MMP 479, CD, 2005)
Progressive
Simona Angioloni (lead vocals)

My initial review was absurdly generous, awarding this a B, comparing it to Carol Of Harvest and Renaissance, and describing it as ‘among the best albums of its kind from the twenty-first century’. Listening again, its drawbacks become more obvious: whilst I stand by my assertion that this has ‘hauntingly beautiful vocals, lovely melodies and fine musicianship’, it doesn’t have the complexity or songwriting quality of Renaissance or the consistency of mood (or indeed the songs) of Carol Of Harvest. However, there’s no denying the magnificence of the hypnotic 17-minute closer ‘When Night Is Almost Done’, which remains a jewel in Fabio Zuffanti’s crown. GRADE: B–.
Aries (Italy): Double Reign (AMS AMS192CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2010)
Pop/Rock/Progressive
Simona Angioloni (lead vocals)
Five years on, their second drops most of the seventies influences and long instrumental passages in favour of a modernistic, atmospheric pop sound featuring lots of loops and borderline trip-hop elements. It’s not exactly bad, and it’s certainly more varied and inventive than their first, but the disc lacks the great songs to lift it above the ordinary. GRADE: C+.
See also Höstsonaten

Arion (USA): Arion (Delaney 42777, 1981)
Lounge
Roberta Holler (joint lead vocals, synthesiser, percussion)
The cover and liner notes about ‘Arion, a Corinthian poet and musician from 7th century BC’ make this appear to be some kind of progressive concept album, but it’s actually a mixture of Latinesque soft rock and lounge stuff. With mainly original material and a bit of a lo-fi Steely Dan vibe, this is a pleasant enough album with just enough oddness to have some appeal for ‘real people’ collectors.
GRADE: C+.

Arion (Brazil): Arion (Progressive Rock Worldwide PRW 047, CD, 2001)
Progressive
Tânia Braz (principal vocals, guitar)
I was expecting this to be of that typically dense, hard-riffing Latin American modern prog style, but it’s actually a well-crafted symphonic prog album with lots of seventies leanings. One reference point could be Renaissance, though this is much more rocking and dynamic, and without the overt classical references. With the music soaring and ebbing at all the right moments, this is a good album – but it lacks the really memorable melodies and riffs to make it a great one. GRADE: C+.

Arkangel (USA): Warrior (Joyeuse Garde JGR-001, with booklet, 1982)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Bekah Crabb (joint lead vocals, autoharp)
Here Kemper and Bekah Crabb, formerly of Redemption, return with a much more unusual new band. Gone is Redemption’s straightforward rural Jesus rock, replaced by an oddball fusion of AOR, folk and mediaeval music, with a few avant-garde touches. The sumptuous fantasy artwork and odd photos of the band in Middle Ages garb reflects the music fairly accurately; lute, recorder, dulcimer, psaltery and autoharp all put in appearances here, alongside plenty of synthesisers. Some of it is positively MOR whilst other cuts are hard rocking (though simultaneously mellow); bits are brilliant and others less so, but ultimately this succeeds where many more lauded bands failed: its mix of styles is like nothing else I’ve ever heard. GRADE: B–.
See also Redeption, Various ‘Hill County Faith Festival’

Arkham (France): Arkham (BMT AK02CD, CD, with digipak and booklet, 1994)
Rock
Barbara Lezmy (lead vocals)
Not to be confused with the all-male Belgian avant-prog band of the same name, this is a one-off album from a band fronted by Barbara Lezmy (better known as an artist and as an occasional backing vocalist with Marillion). She has an extraordinarily versatile voice, often sounding like Véronique Sanson or Sandie Shaw, but sometimes moving into Lene Lovich or Pascale Son-style theatrics or even a heavy metal-like scream. The music, meanwhile, is fairly mainstream guitar rock, but very varied too, with hints of everything from new wave and modern pop to seventies hard rock, sympho-prog, metal and borderline avant-prog. The result is an odd and incoherent record that contains several really fine songs. GRADE: C+.

See also Guma Guma

Arpia (Italy): Terramare (Lizard/Andromeda CD 042/AND CD 017, CD, 2005)
Metal/Progressive
Paola Feraiorni (occasional vocals)
Blending Italian and South American heavy prog styles, Arpia turn in twelve dense, heavy-riffing songs, with the slightly psychedelic title track probably being the best of the bunch. There are few extended instrumental passages here and even less variety, so the album is slightly long and monotonous, but it’s solid enough for what it is. GRADE: C+.
Arpia (Italy): Racconto D’Inverno (Muséa FGBG 4810, CD, France, 2009)
Progressive
Paola Feraiorni (joint lead vocals)
Shedding their metal roots completely, the band offers a delicate, lyrical album that essentially comprises a single track divided into numerous short sections. With folky and slight jazzy undertones, it’s mellifluous and melodic enough, but – like their previous LP – absolutely packed with lyrics, meaning the music gets little chance to breathe. GRADE: C+.

Arktis (West Germany): Arktis (No label R4040, 1974)
Garage/Metal/Progressive
Karin Töppig (lead vocals)
Recorded solely with voice, electric guitars, bass and drums and with a basement ambience (although excellent recording quality), this is as good a heavy rock record as anyone could wish for. The first side has three short songs packed with memorable riffs, whilst the second is given over to the twenty-minute ‘Rare Girl’: another powerful song bookending a lengthy guitar workout that constantly changes style and gradually builds into a cauldron of acid leads with a dark Krautrock atmosphere. Put simply, this is a classic. The CD reissue adds three bonus tracks recorded about a year after the album proper: these are good but less essential, showing the band moving in a more conventional mid-seventies metal direction, with some proto-punk and even glam undertones. GRADE: A.
Arktis (West Germany): Arktis Tapes (Bon-Bons BBR 7502, 1975)
Blues/Rock
Karin Töppig (principal vocals)
Their second album is composed of outtakes from earlier jam sessions, and unfortunately sounds like it. Whilst there is some good music here, a collection of blues jams plus a few songs (similar to, but nowhere near as good as, those on their debut) is unlikely to set any pulses racing. The CD reissue adds two bonus tracks, totalling nearly half an hour; these are also blues jams. GRADE: C+.
Arktis (West Germany): On The Rocks (No label ARK-76-1, 1976)
Metal
Karin Töppig (lead vocals)
In terms of structure, this harks back to their debut, with four short songs on the first side and a single twenty-minute piece on the second. It’s musically rather different, however, being slick, polished metal with lots of keyboards and an early eighties rather than mid-seventies sound (sometimes recalling ZZ Top at their commercial peak). Whilst this is a good album that should please anyone liking the style, the rawness and sheer power of their debut is sadly missed. GRADE: C+.
Arktis (Germany): More Arktis Tapes (Garden Of Delights CD 039, 1999, recorded 1975)
Blues/Rock/Metal
Karin Töppig (lead vocals)
As the title suggests, this collection of unreleased 1975 recordings is a logical follow-up to Arktis Tapes, again concentrating more on jams than songs. Whilst sharing the same drawbacks as its similarly named predecessor, this is probably the slightly better disc. GRADE: C+.
Arktis (Germany): Last Arktis Tapes (Garden Of Delights CD 125, CD, 2006, recorded 1973-1975)
Garage/Psychedelic/Metal
Karin Töppig (lead vocals)
Ironically, this final volume of outtakes, which should have sounded like scrapings from the very bottom of the barrel, is decidedly superior to More Arktis Tapes, let alone Arktis Tapes itself. For sure, it’s long, rambling and often very lo-fi, but there’s some great garage rock here, especially the long high-octane jams ‘Very Progressive’ and ‘Furious Flight’, which could easily have surfaced on their debut album.

GRADE: B–.

Joan Armatrading (St Kitts & Nevis): Whatever’s For Us (Cube HIFLY 12, UK, 1972)
Folk/Rock
Joan Armatrading (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
West Indian-born Joan Armatrading made it big in the mid-seventies as a conventional confessional singer/songwriter (before turning to new wave, pop, blues/rock and more), but her obscure debut album is something else. A remarkably original and personal statement, it sets her unusual voice against beautifully judged backing, with a wide range of moods and textures including sitar on the breathtaking ‘Visionary Mountains’, effective orchestration on ‘It Could Have Been Better’, chimes on ‘Alice’ and bluesy horns on the closing ‘All The King’s Gardens’. This is easily among the five best acid- folk albums that can be picked up for a few pounds, and had it been a small-run private pressing it would now sell for a fortune. GRADE: B.

Aros Mae (UK): Y Caneuon (Gwerin SYW 205 D, 1977)
Folk
Meinir Lloyd (joint lead vocals), Morina Lloyd (joint lead vocals), Eifion Price (violin)
This isn’t the cabaret-style monstrosity its unpromising cover suggests, but the female vocals are pretty formal and the hymnal numbers they front do not make for enjoyable listening. However, the male vocal songs and instrumentals fare better, offering pleasant traditional folk, though it’s easy to see why this hasn’t joined labelmates Pererin in exciting collectors’ interest. GRADE: C.

Arpia (Italy): Terramare (Lizard/Andromeda CD 042/AND CD 017, CD, 2005)
Metal/Progressive
Paola Feraiorni (occasional vocals)
Blending Italian and South American heavy prog styles, Arpia turn in twelve dense, heavy-riffing songs, with the slightly psychedelic title track probably being the best of the bunch. There are few extended instrumental passages here and even less variety, so the album is slightly long and monotonous, but it’s solid enough for what it is. GRADE: C+.
Arpia (Italy): Racconto D’Inverno (Muséa FGBG 4810, CD, France, 2009)
Progressive
Paola Feraiorni (joint lead vocals)
Shedding their metal roots completely, Arpia offer a delicate, lyrical album that essentially comprises a single track divided into numerous short sections. With folky and slight jazzy undertones, it’s mellifluous and melodic enough, but – like their previous album – absolutely packed with lyrics, meaning the music gets little chance to breathe. GRADE: C+.

Arrakeen (France): Folle Marie (2C Production, cassette, 1989)
Progressive
Marie-Claude Taliana (lead vocals)
Compiling the band’s early recordings from 1985 to 1988, this cassette offers pleasant, mellow keyboard-led neoprogressive. It’s not the most ambitious prog album in the world, and Marie-Claude Taliana’s vocals sometimes reach helium pitch, which is likely to send dogs scurrying for cover, but overall it’s a decent enough set. GRADE: C+.

Arrakeen (France): Patchwork (2C Productions 218753, CD, 1990)
Progressive
Marie-Claude Taliana (lead vocals)
Comprising four tracks (three recorded in the studio and one live) totalling about half an hour, this is a pleasant, unassuming album of synthesiser-led neoprogressive. Marillion’s Steve Rothery guests on the live cut, giving a strong clue as to one of their major influences. GRADE: C+.
Arrakeen (USA): Mosaïque (2C Productions 218753, CD, 1992)
Progressive
Marie-Claude Taliana (lead vocals)
Their third and final album is a bit more substantial than their first two. Once again, this is nice neoprog distinguished by some understated musicianship and Marie-Claude Taliana’s gentle, melodic singing. As a footnote, both Arrakeen CDs do in fact have the same catalogue number – this is not an error on my part. GRADE: C+.

Ars Nova (Japan): Fear And Anxiety (Made In Japan MCD-2923, CD, 1992)
Progressive
Kyoko Saito (bass, bass synthesiser), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Yumiko Saito (drums)
This band’s backstory is in some ways more interesting than their music: three petite Japanese ladies decide to form a female counterpart to ELP, with leader and keyboardist Keiko Kumagai having the Keith Emerson chops down to a tee. The resulting music is as bombastic as one would expect, and thanks to fine musicianship and constantly changing moods avoids being one-dimensional (a frequent problem with non-vocal bands featuring a single lead instrument). However, whilst there are plenty of excellent moments, there is nothing here for anyone who isn’t a hardcore fan of keyboard prog. As a footnote, this is a remarkably short album, running for around 32 minutes.

GRADE: C+.
Ars Nova (Japan): Tränsi (Made In Japan MJC-1006, CD, 1994)
Progressive
Kyoko Kanazawa (bass), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums, violin)
Recorded by Kumagai with two new collaborators, this is basically more of the same. However, the LP is longer, more wide-ranging and slightly more accomplished than its predecessor, although once again they tend to come across as enjoyable one-trick ponies. That said, it definitely has its moments, especially some of Kyoko Kanazawa’s powerful fuzz bass lines. GRADE: C+.
Ars Nova (Japan): The Goddess Of Darkness (Made In Japan MJC-1014, CD, 1996)
Progressive
Kyoko Kanazawa (bass), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums)
Album number three is a concept set, with each of the five tracks being devoted to a destructive goddess. Even more bombastic than their first two, and occasionally a bit cheesy, it’s nonetheless by far their best album to date, with plenty of variety in the keyboard sounds, breathtaking dynamics and wonderful performances from all three musicians. For no obvious version, the version simultaneously released in France (Muséa FGBG 4196.AR) has both a revised running order and completely different artwork. GRADE: B–.
Ars Nova (Japan): Reu Nu Pert Em Hru (Made In Japan MJC-1018, CD, 1998)
Progressive
Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums)
Reduced to a duo plus a (male) guest bassist, Ars Nova offer another concept album, this time about Egyptian deities. Unsurprisingly, Arabic motifs decorate the material but mostly it’s their usual keyboard bombast – even more over-the-top, symphonic and relentless than usual, and to these ears a clear step down from the excellent Goddess Of Darkness. That said, I do like the more relaxed, Mellotron-drenched ‘Ani’s Heart And Maat’s Father’, which runs for over nine minutes. Oddly, the French issue (Muséa FGBG 4255.AR) changes the title to The Book Of The Dead, transforms the artwork and substitutes three different pieces of linking music, although only about three minutes vary between the two versions. GRADE: C+.
Ars Nova (Japan): Ars Nova @ Club Cocodrie (Exposé #1, CDR, USA, 1998)
Progressive
Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Naomi Miura (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums)
This recording of the band performing in the States is billed as part of the ‘Exposé Bootleg Series’ and the sound is certainly of superior bootleg quality. With Rosalia’s Naomi Miura helping out as a second keyboardist, the disc offers a good cross-section of material, but I can’t imagine anyone choosing it in preference to one of their studio sets. GRADE: C+.
Gerard & Ars Nova (Japan): Keyboards Triangle (Avalon MICA-2004, CD, 1999)
Progressive
Kyoko Kanazawa (bass), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Mika Nakajima (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums)
This is a split album with the similarly-inclined Gerard (who get four numbers to Ars Nova’s three), with both bands covering keyboard prog classics from ELP, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Il Balletto Di Bronzo, Premiata Forneria Marconi and others. Even more over-the-top than their regular albums, this is crazily bombastic keyboard prog, offering crazy dynamics and constant ostentation. Nonetheless it is pretty good, and a definite improvement over Reu Nu Pert Em Hru. As usual, the French version (Muséa FGBG 4306.AR) has different artwork. GRADE: C+.
Ars Nova (Japan): Android Domina (Made In Japan MJC-1022, CD, 2001)
Progressive
Mika Nakajima (occasoonal vocals, keyboards), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards, programming), Akiko Takahashi (drums, percussion)
This varies the band’s usual format somewhat by adding occasional angelic vocals from second keyboardist Mika Nakajima (as well as sound effects of women having orgasms to reflect the overall erotic/bondage theme, as indeed does the cover). The result is their most varied album to date, ranging from some beautiful pastoral passages to superb organ jamming to less successful pieces with crashing programmed percussion, moving them towards industrial realms. Needless to say, the French version (Muséa FGBG 4347.AR) substitutes completely different artwork; oddly, it also removes the track ‘In The Cube’ and replaces it with the slightly longer ‘Mother’. GRADE: C+.
Ars Nova (Japan): Collector’s Box (Tränsi TRA-CD0001, triple CDR plus DVDR and photo CDR, with box, 2001)
Progressive
Mika Nakajima (occasional vocals, keyboards), Kyoko Kanazawa (bass), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums, percussion, backing vocals)
Originally priced at an extortionate $220, this boxed set features two live albums (Official Bootleg Live 1997 and Across The World), a compilation (The Nightmares), a DVD (Museo Bizzarro) mixing low budget promotional videos (some bordering on soft pornography) and live footage, and a CDR containing a photo gallery (with some images again being borderline pornographic). The music CDRs were reissued separately (well, certainly Across The World and The Nightmares – I’ve never encountered a copy of Official Bootleg Live 1997 as a standalone release), whilst various elements of the box were included as bonus discs with Altavoz’s reissues of the band’s studio albums. As befitting its title, the 1997 live disc has rather average sound quality but some superb performances, whilst Across The World documents the band’s 2001 world tour with both breathtaking music and an excellent recording. The compilation is a well-chosen overview of their career, whilst the less said about the DVD and photo gallery the better. GRADE: B–.
Ars Nova (Japan): Biogenesis Project (Tränsi TRA-CD0005, CD, 2003)
Progressive
Mika Nakajima (joint lead vocals), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums, backing vocals)
This offers a partial change of direction, adding guests on vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and violin for a fuller sound falling somewhere between neoprogressive and heavy rock. With several actual songs and a rather silly science fiction concept, the end result is a frenetic mess and sometimes virtually unlistenable. As per usual, the French issue (Muséa FGBG 4532.AR) substituted different packaging, whilst the 2010 reissue as plain Biogenesis (Altavoz ALT-34) added a bonus DVD: this was almost certainly a repackage of Museo Bizzarro and the photo CDR from the 2002 Collector’s Box, plus some bonus material, though some sources suggest otherwise. GRADE: D+.
Ars Nova (Japan): Chrysalis/Force For The Fourth (Muséa FGBG 4644.AR, CD, France, 2005)
Progressive
Shinko Shibata (bass), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards)
A spectacular return to form after the horrific Biogenesis Project, this shows Ars Nova expanding to a quartet (with a male guitarist and drummer) and returning to basics. Consisting entirely of re-recordings of older pieces and wholly instrumental, it’s incredibly dynamic and superbly recorded – simply a stunning album. This time round, there was no Japanese original, but the disc was reissued in 1998 as an HQCD with stunning sound quality and a gatefold minsisleve (Altavoz ALT-28). GRADE: B.
Ars Nova (Japan): Seventh Hell (Altavoz ALT-29, HQCD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2009)
Progressive
Mika Nakajima (occasional vocals), Daniela Lojarro (occasional vocals), Keiko Kumagai (occasional vocals, keyboards), Shinko Shibata (bass)
Like Biogenesis Project, this features a couple of actual songs, which really aren’t the band’s strength. Whilst this is rarely as obnoxious as that disc, containing a few excellent moments, it’s also nowhere near as good as Chrysalis/Force For The Fourth. GRADE: C+.
Ars Nova (Japan): Official Bootleg Live (Altavoz ALT-35, DVD plus CD, 2010, recorded 1996-2010)
Progressive
Mika Nakajima (occasional vocals, keyboards), Kyoko Kanawaza (bass, percussion), Shinko Shibata (bass), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Naomi Miura (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums)
This excellent set compiles the Official Bootleg Live 1997 CD from the 2002 Collector’s Box with a DVD featuring live footage from 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2010. The video footage is rather amateurishly (though perfectly competently) filmed, but it has excellent sound quality, and really demonstrates the band’s superb musicianship. Overall, this is a fine introduction to Ars Nova in concert. GRADE: B–.
Ars Nova (Japan): Divine Night (Altavoz ALT-36, DVD plus CD, with booklet, 2011, recorded 2001 & 2010)
Progressive
Sayuri Aruga (principal vocals), Mika Nakajima (occasional vocals, keyboards), Shinko Shibata (bass), Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Akiko Takahashi (drums, percussion, backing vocals)
This enjoyable set combines a live DVD of a recent Christmas show (featuring Keiko Kumagai and Shinko Shibata plus a male guitarist and drummer and Interpose+’s Sayuri Aruga fronting about half the cuts) with the 2002 Across The World CD from the Collector’s Box. The DVD depicts a wonderfully energetic gig, with the instrumental pieces (as usual) working better than the vocal numbers. As a footnote, another live Ars Nova DVD exists from 2004 (Christmastide, Tränsi TRA-DV011), which I have never encountered. GRADE: B–.
See also Interpose+, Marble Sheep & The Run Down Sun’s Children, Rosalia, Sasori & Danball Bat, Various 'Kings' Boards'

Art & Illusion (Italy): Seasons (Mellow MMP 283, CD, 1995)
Rock/Progressive
Barbara Martini (keyboards, concertina, backing vocals)
This is a pleasant album of melodic rock with a few minor neoprogressive edges, with the material ranging from the folky to the hard rocking. Aside from a cover of Genesis’s ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’, everything is self-penned. GRADE: C+.

Art Bears (UK/USA/West Germany): Hopes And Fears (Ré Ré 2188, with poster, UK, 1978)
Avant-Garde/Progressive
Dagmar Krause (lead vocals), Georgie Born (bass, cello, backing vocals), Lindsay Cooper (saxophone, recorder, bassoon, oboe)
The bulk of this first album by the Henry Cow breakaway was actually recorded by Henry Cow; with several members dissatisfied with the emphasis on short, structured songs (harking back to Desperate Straights) the band split in two, with Fred Frith and Chris Cutler remaining in both camps. A fine and very inventive album, emphasising Dagmar Krause’s Brechtian roots and Frith and Cutler’s truly weird compositional style, Hopes And Fears is unsetlling in parts and challenging throughout. However, one can’t help but wish that the split had never happened: this would have been a much better album had it mixed songs and the band’s trademark instrumentals, and the same is true of Henry Cow’s final album Western Culture. GRADE: B–.
Art Bears (UK/USA/West Germany): Winter Songs (Ré Ré 0618, with booklet, UK, 1979)
Avant-Garde/Progressive/Folk
Dagmar Krause (lead vocals)
Considered by some as the first true Art Bears album, this was recorded solely by the core trio of Krause, Cutler and Frith. With Henry Cow’s predominant jazz influence replaced by a new-found interest in folk, and with a succession of extremely weird short songs, this sometimes resembles a melancholy twist on Slapp Happy. With some very poignant lyrics, this is mostly an eerie and haunting record (though it can be cacophonous too, as on ‘Dogs And Monkeys’) that constantly amazes with its relentless creativity. GRADE: B.
Art Bears (UK/USA/West Germany): The World As It Is Today (Ré Ré 6622, with booklet, 1980)
Avant-Garde/Progressive
Dagmar Krause (lead vocals)
The third and final Art Bears album is no less weird and creative than its predecessor, but it is rather more slight, with a succession of fragmentary songs totalling little more than half an hour. (Indeed, the original pressing plays at 45rpm rather than 33rpm.) More Brechtian and less folky than Winter Songs, the disc features plenty of tape manipulation and studio trickery and peaks on the closing ‘Albion, Awake!’ (rendered as an instrumental since Dagmar Krause refused to sing the lyrics). GRADE: B–.
See also Lindsay Cooper, Cosa Brava, Dagmar Krause, Henry Cow, Slapp Happy

Art Deco (Finland): Syvään Uneen (Art Deco ARTDECOCD1, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2013)
Progressive
Jaana Mäkinen (lead vocals)
This Finnish band’s album has an unusual style that’s difficult to define: the material is song-based (with only the intense thirteen-minute ‘Valaistumattomat’ being particularly lengthy) and quite jazzy and dissonant (with Finneus Gage sometimes springing to mind), but also displaying some new wave and even singer/songwriter edges. The end result is an interesting record, but one that feels more like a band finding its feet than a fully-realised finished product. GRADE: C+.

Art Moulu (France): Art Moulu (Il Posto IPR 1116, CD, Italy, 1990)
Jazz/Rock/Avant-Garde
Jo Thirion (keyboards, backing vocals)
Jo Thirion’s post-Étron Fou Leloublan project isn’t a million miles away from her former band, offering the same kind of playful, scrappy, joyously weird jazz/rock. Blending influences from RIO and Canterbury and even a touch of zeuhl, it’s an enjoyable and creative, if not enormously substantial, LP. GRADE: C+.
See also Étron Fou Leloublan, Zar

Art Of Lovin’ (USA): The Art Of Lovin’ (Mainstream 6113, 1968)
Pop/Psychedelic
Gail Winnick (principal vocals)
This is often compared to Growing Concern, which makes sense: both albums share a relaxed, pop-ish early Jefferson Airplane sensibility. One track is actually a blatant Airplane clone (‘Good Times’), and another resembles Ill Wind (the gentle, haunting ‘What The Young Minds Say’), whilst Gail Winnick's Grace Slick impersonation is pretty effective. Whilst this isn't the heaviest or most original album in the world, it has West Coast period ambience in spades, so it's a thoroughly enjoyable listen. GRADE: C+.

Art Snobs (UK): The Art Snobs (Terrace TERR037, CD, 1996)
Psychedelic
Nadja McDevitt (principal vocals)
This unusual album offers a sort of psychedelic gothic indie music, with thin arrangements based around almost systemic keyboards. There is some good acid guitar work, a few ethnic tinges and a definite Krautrock influence, but it’s a difficult record to pigeonhole. Oddly, the opening cut ‘Dreams’ is by far the worst thing on offer, being rather fey indie pop that isn’t really characteristic of their sound. GRADE: C+.

Art Zoyd (France): Génération Sans Futur (Atem ATEM 7007, 1980)
Progressive/Avant-Garde/Jazz/Classical
Patricia Dallio (piano)
With strings and horns the principal instruments, this mainly instrumental, highly avant-garde work, draws more from twentieth century classical and modern jazz than from rock or prog. Comparisons could be made to the more free-form end of RIO or zeuhl, but this is a highly original set that bears only passing resemblance to other chamber-rock. Of course, it may be too weird, knotty and austere for many ears, but for anyone liking the style this is a classic from the French underground. GRADE: B.
Art Zoyd (France): Symphonie Pour Le Jour Où Brûleront Les Cités (Atem ATEM 7010, 1981)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (piano)
Every bit as daring and creative as its predecessor, this is also much heavier and more rock-oriented – the jabbering French vocals and startling horn outbursts on the opening section strongly recall mid-seventies Magma. By any standards, this is a remarkable piece of work and a tour de force of experimental neoclassical music. Incidentally, this was a re-recording of the band’s debut album, privately issued by an all-male line-up back in 1976. GRADE: B.
Art Zoyd (France): Les Espaces Inquiets (Cryonic INC 1153, 1983)
Jazz/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (piano)
Reducing the rock elements almost to zero and adding notable electronic and free jazz edges, this eerie, rather minimalist album resembles the soundtrack to a film noir (which is, of course, the exact direction they would eventually take). Whilst more varied, and in some ways even more experimental, than the last couple of LPs, it’s perhaps just a notch below them in terms of listenability. GRADE: B–.
Art Zoyd (France): Le Mariage Du Ciel Et De L’Enfer (Cryonic MAD 3009 CD, CD, 1985)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards)
Recorded as the score to a Roland Petit ballet, this is even odder and more minimalist than its predecessor. The result is a dark, sinister soundscape that’s highly creative and challenging, but perhaps more admirable than it is enjoyable. The CD features several additional tracks not included on the LP, presumably offering the entire score. GRADE: B–.
Art Zoyd (France): Berlin (Cryonic MAD 3032 CD, CD, 1987)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards)
Overall this is more listenable than Le Mariage Du Ciel Et De L’Enfer, with the opening ‘Epithalame’ being especially fine. However, the album sags noticeably in the middle, especially on the CD version, which once again has extra tracks. GRADE: B–.
Art Zoyd (France): Nosferatu (Mantra 031, CD, 1989)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards)
Composed as a new soundtrack to FW Murnau’s 1922 gothic horror classic (with an additional mini-suite ‘Vorgange’ tacked on), Nosferatu is every bit as dark and sinister as one would expect. If the album is a little disjointed in parts, it’s superbly atmospheric and very inventive, with some impressive electronic textures and neoclassical touches. GRADE: B–.
Art Zoyd (France): Marathonnèrre (Atonal ACD 3015, CD, Germany, 1993)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards)
Composed to accompany a spectacular 12-hour multimedia performance, this is Art Zoyd’s most varied album to date. At various times, it hints at everyone from Henry Cow to Jacula, ranging from electronica to ethnic music and even incorporating a children’s choir. Such a record could easily have been messy and disjointed, but overall this is a surprisingly coherent piece of work. GRADE: B–.
Art Zoyd (France): Marathonnèrre II (Atonal ACD 3016, CD, Germany, 1993)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards)
Nowhere near as good as the first part of the score, this is a rather scrappy LP that sounds like a sampler of Art Zoyd’s various styles. There is good music here, but there’s also nothing that they hadn’t done before, better. Shortly after the two albums were issued separately, they were made available as a double CD, featuring both the original booklets. GRADE: C+.
Art Zoyd (France): Faust (Atonal ACD 3021, CD, Germany, 1996)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sampler)
Another Murnau film soundtrack, and even more dark and minimalist than their usual work. Consisting mainly of electronics, effects and occasional choral vocals, this is a bold and challenging album, but only occasionally an engaging or exciting one. GRADE: C+.
Art Zoyd (France): Häxan (Atonal LC 8717, Germany, 1997)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sampler)
Another silent film soundtrack, presumably because this sort of thing was good for attracting Arts Council grants. This is a bit livelier and more varied than Faust but there are still long passages of electronics and effects where nothing much happens, and they’re still tending to repeat themselves. GRADE: C+.
Art Zoyd (France): uBIQUe (In-Possible AZ 2000 U, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2000)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sampler), Emma Stephenson Poli (keyboards), Mirelle Bauer (keyboards, percussion)
Art Zoyd’s first album without joint leader and co-composer Thierry Zaboïtzeff delivers a few surprises in the line-up department: percussionist Mireille Bauer (best known for her work with Gong) resurfaces after more than twenty years of silence, whilst the band is backed by a vast orchestra of guitarists, bassists, drummers and horn players. However, that’s where the innovations end, as musically this is Art Zoyd repeating themselves again and becoming gradually duller by the release. GRADE: C.
Art Zoyd (France/Japan): Metropolis (In-Possible AZ2003, double CD, with digipak, France, 2002)
Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sampler), Yukari Hamada-Bertocchi (keyboards, sampler)
Their third film soundtrack in four albums, and this one is an epic: the ‘Metropolis’ score itself runs for more than an hour and three quarters, whilst the two bonus suites total more than 40 minutes. The band’s line-up had changed again since uBIQUe, with Patricia Dallio composing as well as performing, and musically this removes the final vestiges of rock from their sound, moving them towards cacophonous electronic avant-garde. As a great fan of the movie, I could imagine this working well as a score, but as a standalone album it’s clever but sometimes mind-numbingly boring. GRADE: C–.
Art Zoyd Studio & Musiques Nouvelles Ensemble (France/Belgium/Japan): Expériences De Vol (Sub Rosa SE192, triple CD, with digipak and booklet, France, 2002)
Classical/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Yukari Hamada-Bertocchi (keyboards), Mireille Bauer (percussion), Laurence Chave (percussion), Cristina Constantinescu (violin), Vanessa Damanet (violin), Véronique Lierneux (violin), Dominica Eyckmans (viola), Manuela Busher (viola), Kela Canka (viola), Sigrid Van den Bogaerde (cello), Fabienne Dussenwart (flute), Carola Diraert (oboe)
How far this should be regarded as a true Art Zoyd album is debatable: only some of the core members are involved, and all the material is interpretations of numbers by contemporary classical composers. However, this is closer in spirit to the original intention of Art Zoyd than the last couple of albums, swapping the unmusical clanking of Metropolis for some enjoyable orchestrated chamber-rock. Admittedly, certain pieces work better than others (with the opening Kasper T Toeplitz composition being exactly the kind of thing that gives avant-garde music a bad name) and this might have worked better as a more concise double album, but it’s still a solid, if overlong, set.

GRADE: C+.
Art Zoyd Studio & Musiques Nouvelles Ensemble (France/Belgium/Japan): Expériences De Vol 4-5-6 (In-possible EXPO 1, triple CD, France, 2005)
Classical/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Yukari Bertocchi-Hamada (keyboards, computer, sampler, sensors), Nathalie Negro (keyboards), Laurence Chave (percussion), Cristina Constantinescu (violin), Véronique Lierneux (violin), Manuela Bucher (viola), Dominica Eyckmans (viola), Sigrid van der Bogaerde (cello)
The second volume of Expériences De Vol is even longer, running for three and a quarter hours. That’s its downfall: there is some fine music here, with relatively few weak points, but taken in totality it becomes almost mind-numbing. GRADE: C+.
Art Zoyd (France/Japan): Le Champ Des Larmes (In-Possible AZ2008, CD, with digipak, 2006)
Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sensors, Kaoss Pads), Yukari Hamada-Bertocchi (keyboards, sensors, Kaoss Pads)
Subtitled ‘electronic oratorio for four musicians surrounding the public and five video sources’ this is another work of pure avant-gardism. Like the Metropolis soundtrack, which this somewhat resembles, this very definitely isn’t to my taste. GRADE: C–.
Art Zoyd (France/Japan): La Chute De La Maison Usher (In-Possible AZ2009, CD, with digipak, France, 2008)
Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sampler), Yukari Hamada-Bertocchi (keyboards, electronics, sampler)
Another day, another silent film soundtrack; however, this one is a modest return to form, although there are still long formless passages where nothing of any interest happens. Nonetheless, there are also some quite creative moments, and thankfully it’s a lot less minimalist than much of their later work. GRADE: C+.
Art Zoyd Studios (France): Expériences De Vol #7 (Orkhêstra International OCD/I, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2010)
Industrial/Avant-Garde
Carol Robinson (clarinet)
This is subtitled ‘Pure Noise’ – or maybe that’s the title or even the band credit, as it’s hard to tell. In any case, it lives up to its name, showcasing 75 minutes of howling electronic cacophony that takes Art Zoyd into the realms of noise music pioneers like Merzbow. Many listeners will find it akin to sonic torture, but it’s an excellent example of its rather curious genre. GRADE: C+.
Art Zoyd (France/Japan): Eyecatcher (Orkhêstra International AZ2011, double CD, with digibook, France, 2011)
Avant-Garde/Progressive
Yukari Hamada-Bertocchi (keyboards, sampler), Iantha Rimper (violin), Carol Robinson (clarinet), Nadia Ratsimandresy (ondes Martenot)
Surprise: it’s a silent film soundtrack yet again. It’s one of their better ventures too, with some interesting diversions, broader instrumentation than normal, and good use made of orchestral samples. GRADE: C+.

Art Zoyd (France): Phase V (In-Possible AZ 2013, quintuple CD, with minisleeves and box, 2017)

Progressive/Avant-Garde/Industrial/Classical
Yukari Bertocchi-Hamada (keyboards, sampler), Nadia Ratsimandresy (keyboards, sampler, ondes Martenot),  Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sampler)
I haven’t loved anything Art Zoyd have done for decades, so didn’t approach this vast opus – seven soundtrack work for stage performances spread over five hour-long CDs– with a huge amount of enthusiasm. Typically for modern Art Zoyd, it’s all very minimalist, scored for synthesisers and electronic production, and noirish – sometimes minimalist and almost ambient, occasionally cacophonous and borderline industrial. The good news is that there’s some very interesting music here. The bad news is that there’s about two CDs’ worth of genuinely startling stuff, and quite a bit of repetition ­– so Phase V offers numerous oases of intriguing music among a desert of nothingness. 

GRADE: C+.

Art Zoyd & Orchestre National De Lille (France): Dangerous Visions – Live 1998 (Art Zoyd AZ-ONL 2017/1, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2017, recorded 1998)
Progressive/Classical/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, samplers), Emma Stephenson-Poli (keyboards, samplers), Mireille Bauer (samplers, pads)
This isn’t my favourite era of Art Zoyd, but there are some fine moments here – their interpretation of their own Gérard Hourbette’s ‘Glissement Progressifs Du Plaisir’ is wonderfully intense. Elsewhere, this is effective enough, with its stabbing horns and ‘Psycho’-style strings, but particularly in classical music there’s a gulf between a great live performance and a great live recording, and the long section with giggling, chattering and minimal musical backing won’t be enjoying a second listen any time soon. GRADE: C+.

Art Zoyd (France): 44½ – Live And Unreleased Works (Cuneiform RUNE 450-463, 12CD plus 2DVD, with digipaks, booklets, poster and box, 2017, recorded 1972-2015)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Patricia Dallio (keyboards, sampler, sensor), Emma Stephenson-Poli (keyboards, sampler), Yukari Bertocchi-Hamada (keyboards, sensor), Nadia Ratsimandresy (keyboards), Mireille Bauer (sampler, pads), Dominica Eyckmans (cello), Claire Goldfarb (cello)
I’ve always had an odd relationship with Art Zoyd: I loved their early eighties work, when they were operating on the borders of RIO and zeuhl, but gradually became less and less interested as they moved in a more electronic and avant-garde direction. As such, this career-spanning boxed set represented an intriguing and potentially challenging proposition. It opens with an expanded version of the Berlin album, featuring two previously unreleased tracks, capturing the band in transition between their earlier and later phases; interesting stuff, but I wish they’d used a live drummer (B–). Next up is a live version of Häxan, recorded ten years later in 1996. By this time, they had moved to a much more minimalist and even more staccato style, so whilst this is intriguing it also contains long passages where nothing much of interest happens (between C+ and B–). Disc three is rounded off by a live performance of uBIQue from 2000 – not a suite I liked in its studio version. Performed live with a full symphony orchestra, it’s to be admired for its scope and scale, and it fairness it’s slightly livelier than I remember it, though it’s hard to get too excited about (C+). Disc four opens with a decent 1990 studio track called ‘Lindbergh’, followed by most of a 1985 performance of Le Mariage Du Ciel Et De L’Enfer, which has already been one of my favourite Art Zoyd albums – it’s extremely weird without being self-indulgent and often repetitious and minimalist without ever being boring (B–). Disc five is a mishmash: the end of Le Mariage…, some assorted pieces for theatre performances from 1983 to 1991, and stray tracks from live performances in 1975, 1976 and 1979. All of this disparate material is good-to-excellent, and I’ve always favoured their jazzier early work. (B–). Disc six opens with a lo-fi 1976 performance of part of Symphonie Pour Le Jour Où Brûleront Les Cités, followed by a long number from 2000 and then a complete 2002 set (‘La Nuit Du Jabberwock’) with the Musique Nouvelles Ensemble. The latter was supposedly a show for children, in which the audience had lots of fun, but the music is austere in the extreme (just about a B–). Disc seven showcases a 1990 performance in Grenoble, mostly based around a complete rendition of Nosferatu. I always enjoyed this work in its studio form, and it’s excellent live too (a comfortable B–). Disc eight compiles three more live performances: orchestrated excerpts from Symphonie Pour Le Jour… from Maubeuge in 2000, a piece from Mexico in 1999, and two acts of Armageddon from Lille in 2004, complete with a horn section. This is again surprisingly good, and a damn sight better than the undeniably creative but ultimately underwhelming studio version (B–). The ninth disc is an odds-and-sods collection of material recorded between 1980 and 2005 – nearly all-instrumental, and mostly melodic synth-pop that provides a nice change of mood (B–). CD ten features a variety of unreleased live performances from the late eighties and early nineties – mostly fairly melodic instrumental stuff that’s pleasant without being particularly substantial (C+). Disc eleven gathers music composed for various theatrical performances – mostly short and scrappy vignettes running for a couple of minutes (C+). The tweltth and final CD mixes more music for theatrical performances with some live material, spanning the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties – pleasant stuff, but not among the band’s most essential work (C+). The set is rounded off by two DVDs, with the first featuring a two-hour ‘Birthday Concert’ at the 2015 RIO Festival. Excellently filmed and recorded, it showcases material from all phases of the band’s career, and shows them to be a fascinating live act, combining classical, jazz and borderline rock influences in bizarre and constantly changing combinations (B). Finally, disc fourteen compiles TV appearances, lower-budget live footage and a trailer for Nosferatu, ranging from 1979 to 1988 (B–). It rounds off a superb archive collection that I enjoyed a great deal more than I expected – whilst I find modern Art Zoyd too clinical in the studio, they’re clearly still a formidable live act. GRADE: B–.

See also Patricia Dallio, Alain Eckert Quartet, Édition Spéciale, Forgas Band Phenomena, Gong, Catherine Ribeiro & Alpes, Urban Sax

Artichoke House (UK): When The Carnival’s Gone (Reverb Worship RW 145, UK, CDR, with minisleeve and insert, 2011)
Folk
Dee Ivall (principal vocals, drums, percussion, melodica)
The duo of Dee and Gerard Ivall offer spellbinding early seventies-style folk; the mention of ‘celandine’ in the lyrics gives a fair clue that their biggest influence was probably Shide & Acorn. Gentle, delicate and haunting, with a procession of wonderful self-penned songs, the album has just one failing: at only 23 minutes or so, it’s far too short. GRADE: B–.

Marion Arts & Robbie Lavën (New Zealand/Holland): There’s Two Sides To It (Pan 0108, Holland, 1981)
Folk/Country/Rock
Marion Arts (lead vocals, guitar, sticks)
Relocating to Lavën’s native Holland, the former leaders of Red Hot Peppers returned with an album very similar to their former band. The rock elements are toned down a bit, and the folk, ragtime and country influences are much more prominent, but otherwise this is business as usual: varied, rootsy, creative and whimsical music that occasionally strays over the border into lounge and novelty territory. For no obvious reason, several numbers are sung in French. GRADE: C+.
Marion Arts & Robbie Lavën (New Zealand/Holland): The Lost Angel (Pan 115, with inner, Holland, 1983)
Folk/Rock
Marion Arts (lead vocals, guitar, percussion)
The first couple of cuts have a strongly ethnic flavour, suggesting that Arts and Lavën have moved in a world music direction. However, the album is all over the place like its predecessor, from excellent progressive folk (‘The North Wind’) to some rather superfluous lounge jazz and some more lyrics in French. Both Arts and Lavën went on to issue solo albums. GRADE: C+.
See also Red Hot Peppers