|Finally given the treatment this set of CDs deserves, News from Babel fills out the discography of the series of bands that started with Henry Cow, Henry Cow/Slapp Happy, Art Bears, leading to News from Babel. (The Last Nightingale would really make the picture complete, and the sequence ends with Cutler's Domestic Stories.) All 3 CDs in the box are remastered and repackaged with full text and illustrations.
News from Babel was inaugurated with Henry Cow alumni Chris Cutler and Lindsay Cooper. The first LP, Sirens and Silences: Work Resumed on The Tower, included Zeena Parkins on harp, surprisingly her first album on that instrument, and Henry Cow/Slapp Happy's Dagmar Krause on vocals, with Phil Minton and Georgie Born also appearing. The second LP, Letters Home, expands the group by inviting Robert Wyatt (Wyatt's addition fits in nicely with his work with Mike Mantler/Carla Bley), Sally Potter, Phil Minton and Dagmar Krause who sing, and Bill Gilonis of The Work and Hat Shoes. Rounding out the box is the rare 7" release, Contraries, restoring the 7" artwork on a semi-transparent CD.
Discography aside, these are wonderfully inviting, sophisticated and complex compositions with a lot to say. The group use unusual instrumentation and techniques, and also use the studio as an instrument, reworking recordings and compositions into unexpected and often breath-taking works. After nearly a decade of association these musicians play with a familiarity and compositional daring that is the keystone of the RIO genre, and this is a remarkable and important release.