News From Babel | en

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News from Babel was an English avant-garde rock group founded in 1983 by Chris Cutler, Lindsay Cooper, Zeena Parkins and Dagmar Krause. They made two studio albums with several guest musicians (including Robert Wyatt) and disbanded in 1986.

In the wake of English avant-garde rock group Henry Cow (1968-1978), Art Bears (1978-1981), a song-oriented group, was formed by three of Henry Cow's members, drummer Chris Cutler, multi-instrumentalist Fred Frith and singer Dagmar Krause. In Art Bears' wake, News From Babel emerged in 1983, comprising Cutler, Krause, Henry Cow woodwind player Lindsay Cooper, and United States harpist Zeena Parkins. It was Parkins' first "rock group" and the first time she had recorded with her harp. This new group followed the song-oriented approach of Art Bears, but with a different musical emphasis. Cooper composed all the music and Cutler wrote all the song texts.

News From Babel was purely a studio group. The name was derived from the title of George Steiner's book After Babel, and some of the songs on their albums relate directly to Steiner's books. In 1983 they recorded Work Resumed on the Tower, the title referring to the Tower of Babel, with guest vocalist Phil Minton. In 1986 they recorded Letters Home, named after the title of one of Sylvia Plath's books, with guest vocalists Robert Wyatt, Sally Potter and Phil Minton. Cooper's music on both albums is a blend of jazz and cabaret, while Cutler's lyrics are literate, exploring Marxist themes and personal alienation.

The group disbanded in 1986 after recording their second album. However, in 2014 they reformed as part of the larger ensemble that performed the music of Lindsay Cooper. These were their only live performances (with John Greaves deputising for Robert Wyatt). .

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