Like all great "experimental" music, Henry Cow's Unrest
consistently progresses through unexpected levels of musicianship and creativity but never gets lost in its own mire. It's one of those albums that'll start off a track with a jazz ballad, then take five or so minutes to transform it into some sort of warped rock tune (think '60s and '70s rock music, deconstructed then thrown together so the pieces don't quite
fit snugly) then, by the end, will make you wonder not only where you are but also how you got there. For an album that takes so much pride in its own Storm and Stress, however, Unrest
is also compulsively listenable--this is recognizably rock music (although the unconventional alto sax, clarinet, bassoon and oboe that occasionally make their presence are a delight), though its complex (and totally kick-ass) drums and dissonant chordal structures seem to imply that the members of this band, if nothing else, liked listening to multiple records at one time.
Though the end result is certainly more musical, Unrest
indeed, at times, sounds like not just one but a group
of songs put in the same room together, trying desperately to escape. Rhythms and harmonies clash, seemingly mismatched passages are stacked upon each other, tape loops collapse into the abyss while a steady, polyrhythmic drumbeat watches. Yes, this is music that requires me to describe it in terms of motion, simply because it is so full of it. The album takes recognizable "music" (free jazz solos, vocal chants, sloppily precise drum breaks, bleeps and bloops) from different sources and uses it to thrust *** forward--this is progressive
rock in the purest sense.
is a hidden gem, one that transcends and earns all its grating moments because they're all in service of bizarrely beautiful ones. Even for those who (somewhat rightly) scoff at this "next-level" prog music, the band is, at the very least, never
boring--even their slow moments have endless things going on and are as equally as unpredictable as their more spastic workouts. Though it may be tough to crack at first, Unrest
is some of the most uncompromisingly inventive music out there, and, more than thirty years later, it hasn't lost one bit of its astounding touch.