Non Credo

Happy Wretched Family

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Superb, simply superb, but also disorienting and disquieting: that's Happy Wretched Family, Non Credo's second album, seven years after Reluctant Hosts. The avant-pop format found on the first LP has evolved into twisted shards of pop intermingled with improvisation and experimentation. The voice of Kira Vollman remains the center of attention. The first track, "Sporco Mutande," is sung a cappella and illustrates her very wide operatic range. Her vocal palette lies somewhere between Fatima Miranda and Diamanda Galas. Arrangements are polyphonic and complex, and include keyboards, drums, percussion, clarinet, cello, and tapes. Vollman and partner Joseph Berardi handle all instruments, with Bernard Sauser-Hall playing extra keyboards on three tracks. Every piece is a little gem that has been polished for three years. The numerous overdubs give the impression of being in the presence of a ten-piece ensemble -- there is a lot happening. They reach peaks on "Curious Couplings" (haunting melody), the strange half-awake dream "Piano Urine," and "Miliza Three Flights Down" (with improvised nonsense vocals where Vollman turns into a female version of Phil Minton). Compared to Reluctant Hosts, Happy Wretched Family is the work of fully matured artists of exquisite originality. As deranged and avant-gardist as these songs are, given the chance, they will leave their mark in the listener's mind -- if your voice is flexible enough, you might even sing them in the shower.

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