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While most 70s progressive rockers had their noses stuck deep in the works of Herman Hesse or Tolkien and spent their time copping licks from Ravel or Mussorgsky, the members of Henry Cow were reading Marx, Mao and Walter Benjamin and preferred Varese, Cage or Sun Ra for inspiration.
One of the first signings to Virgin records in 1973, the Cow were responsible for some of the most dazzlingly complex rock ever recorded, merging British psychedelia, free improvisation and modern classical with a healthy dose of revolutionary polemic. The band gained a reputation for immense seriousness depite their occasional sly Dadaist humour, though to be fair there pobably weren't many fart jokes in the Henry Cow tour bus.
Western Culture was recorded in 1978 some time after their difficult split with Virgin, and was made in the knowledge that the group was to fold afterwards (a previous attempt at recording had failed a few months earlier). Though these were obviously tricky times for all concerned, you wouldn't know it from the music on this CD, which is some of their finest and dispatched with awesome precision and economy.
Record in Kirchberg, Switzerland, July 26 & August 8, 1978