During a session Twan van der Heiden and Cees Michielsen met both in performance and ideas in october 1977. They joined Bert Vermijs shortly after and formed the group King's Ransom. Three weeks later Jos Hustings, performing as Carmine Queen, came to complete the group. The name of the group was easily chosen: King's Ransom And Carmine Queen. After three days of rehearsal an album was released, Circumvision. Only 500 records were distributed. In 1979 they split up. In 1980 however they joined again for a single performance in Maastricht under the name Silent Revolutions. Later that year Jos Hustings and Bert Vermijs were joined by singer Charlotte Rutten to do some improvisational sessions. In 2005 these sessions were released on CD under the name of Kracq.
Marij van den Berg: Vocals 
Nicos Tsiloijannis: Percussion 
Sam Samshuijzen: Electronic intervisions [9, 13 and 14] and phasing 
Richard Davies: Vocoder [2 and 14]
LP UAP-001 (1978)
CD Polumnia P002 (2003)
Recorded by Hans Fleskens at Xilofox in 1978, except (*) recorded live at Raamsdonkveer
Already judging by the contents of the band's first album, it becomes clear that Kracq was one of the most interesting progressive groups formed in the second half of the seventies. Above all, it's due to their rare and original music, which is genuinely inspired, and the high caliber of musicianship by all of the band members. Though partly, it's also because they sometimes use counterpoint and polyrhythmic structures, which at the time were adopted only by the proponents of RIO and related experimental outfits. Well, the latter features are present only on the first six tracks, but these form no less than half of the album. The opener Summer of My Life is the only song among them and is brilliant throughout, including the vocal-based parts covering about a third of it. The music is a really unique, both highly intricate and intriguing Symphonic Art-Rock with RIO-like tendencies and ever-changing arrangements. The instrumentals Day In Day Out, Somewhere in the Evening, Y, and Y-II (2, 3, 4, & 6) follow the principal compositionally stylistic aspects of Summer of My Life, though Y contains also distinct elements of classical music, provided by piano, and Y-II those related to Prog-Metal. Among the notable particularities of the first two tracks are solos of acoustic guitar inventively interwoven with basic textures. Cobweb (5) is too short to define its stylistics precisely. Nevertheless, consisting of eclectic interplay between solos of synthesizer, guitar, and bass and those of various mallet and metallic percussion, this is a RIO-like entity rather than something different. The remaining five instrumentals, located on all of the further oddly numbered tracks, are just exceptionally brief to be considered music. I don't know why these snatches of effects, etc, have been included here, but, fortunately, they don't mar the overall impression of the album. All the tracks that really form the second half of the recording are songs: Put up the Organized Fight, To a Square, Partnership, and Keep Control (8, 10, 12, & 14), each representing Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of progressive Hard Rock without noticeable deviations towards experimentalism. While being more accessible than any composition from the first half of the album, each of them, nevertheless, contains enough turns and twists to continue keeping the listener's attention. In any case, "Circumvision" is a really remarkable album. I believe it will be deeply appreciated by any expert in Classic Symphonic Progressive, and not only.
This time you can't blame (most of) the delay
of this review on me! Circumvision by Dutch group Kracq was
already released in 1978, on old-fashioned vinyl of course, but
the world had to wait until 2003 before this album became
available on a broader scale, re-released this time on CD by
Coming directly to a preliminary conclusion I think that this was not a bad decision, not that this album is a long-lost pearl the world was deprived from for too long, but it's surely an album worth hearing!
The label Polumnia is an odd ball in the music industry; originally a publisher of literary lyrics, devotes itself to bringing out music and music lyrics with a significant content or message. It stimulates every serious attempt to create music without the pressures and demands of commercial considerations. Strangely enough recently all information on their musical releases have disappeared from their website!
The band Kracq was formed in 1977 by members of the band King's Ransom (Twan van der Heijden, Cees Michielsen and Bert Vermijs) and Jos Hustings then operating under the name Carmine Queen. This directly gives the explanation for the name of the band: King's Ransom And Carmine Queen. With Bert Vermijs on piano, string, synthesizer, clavinet and vocals; Jos Hustings on guitar and vocals; Cees Michielsen on drums and percussion and Twan van der Heiden on bass guitar and percussion and a few additional musicians they recorded Circumvision in 1978. This was their first and only studio album; later only a live album and an obscure 'cellar tapes trilogy', with a different formation, was released. The album was released in a limited edition of only 500 vinyl LP's through the Dutch Pop Promotion Foundation, but by 1979 the band already split up again.
Circumvision begins in a very unexpected (for a prog CD) way, with a very 70's style disco-funk based groove! Soon enough though these make way for some more expected prog elements, but the whole song keeps screaming 'Seventies' from every corner. Halfway Summer Of My Life there's a short transformation into repetitive chaotic tunes over which a voice speaks some French lyrics with a (perhaps deliberate?) a severe (Dutch) accent. Luckily this does not take too long and the song goes back to a normal structure with normal singing, although the chaos gets a reprise too.
Day In Day Out is one of the better songs on the album, fully instrumental that starts of with singing birds, a piano and then a siren sound before the ecstatic Wakeman-like (Tormato era) keyboards take over. The instrumental that follows, Somewhere In The Evening, has a more jazzy feeling to it, it is a bit chaotic and directionless and not really a memorable piece. Continuing with, much to my liking, yet another up-tempo instrumental, called Y, the album reaches another of its highlights with nice (a bit classical) piano and keyboard part; unfortunately it all ends a bit too soon with an abrupt quick fade-out.
Cobweb, just like all the other very short songs that follow later on, is no more than a short interlude between two regular songs, mostly consisting of weird noises (among which hitting pots and pans in this particular case). Musically viewed it's absolute rubbish, but artistically seen some of these interlude tracks are quite interesting, but would actually fit better on a CD with soundscapes and sound experiments or even a soundtrack for a film, but on a regular album these are only fillers since there's no connection whatsoever with the normal songs. The songtitle Y Live gives the, apparently false, impression it's a live version of the song Y, but it sounds more like it's an very early basement demo tape (indeed in poorer quality) of that song, with still lots of work in progress and some sobering up! The title of the next short interlude is very aptly chosen and is actually a good description for all these short interlude songs: Opening Of The Gate Of Noise.
Put Up The Organized Fight floats along a strong bass rhythm and some typical Yes-like keyboards (again Tormato era) but the partly inharmonious, poorly sung vocals don't do the song any good. With To A Square I again begin to wonder if I should take the way of singing seriously, but I just can't figure out if it's deliberately done this terrible way (out of tune, tone and taste, more speaking than singing) as a sort of artistic expression or that it's just very bad! A good decision by Kracq was to limit the vocals, which makes this album still listenable. The many instrumental bits are indeed far better than the vocals and in this song the keyboards sometimes have a groovy, funky feeling, but you have to be into the Seventies retro-sound to really like it (most of the album actually); still it has a great keys solo!
The interlude track Intercaps is still musically acceptable, being a sort of very short Hendrix guitar lick. Another song with a weak point, since it has singing in it, is Partnership, but the sound of probably the clavinet imitating the harpsichord sound is rather nice. Keep Control Of What I Am seems to consist of several segments, but I failed to spot them as there's one tune or melody that runs through the whole song; probably another case of artistic expression. But this song is one of the strongest on this album, well structured and with a bit Pink Floyd like building up, including some spooky sounds at the beginning and a thorough psychedelic feeling to it. The vocals are this time mostly put through a vocoder which actually makes them more acceptable than straight into your ears, but still the song would have been better without! There's also some pretty great keyboard work in this song, somewhat in a Keith Emerson grand style.
This album is probably mainly interesting for people who are much into the Seventies, late psychedelic, prog sound or people who are digging deeper in the obscure Dutch prog scene of that era of which this album might be a nice gem. The vocals definitely ruin the enjoyment of some parts of this album, but if you manage to manoeuvre around them and really like the freely used clavinet sound you'll end up with a very pleasant key based, although out-dated, album.
(Joris Donkel, DPRP)
The Dutch progressive scene has had fair documentation on CD format, especially in regards to well-known names like Finch, Focus, Kayak, Alquin and Supersister, but there are still a handful of gems that have not made it such as the only album by Kracq. Circumvision is one of those albums that could only be a product of the 70s with its wide array of electronics, its jazz rock base, and a host of references from the heyday of progressive rock. Primarily a keyboard-led quartet, Kracq have created an effort that holds similarities to more esoteric 70s progressive rock albums. Fusioon's Minorisa comes to mind immediately in regards to the heavily composed, start and stop rhythmic patterns, but Kracq's general methods have more in common with either 70s jazz rock icons like Return To Forever or Hancock or similar scenes like that of Canterbury. In fact the Canterbury influence through a European filter probably willl reflect more clearly on Kracq's mode of operation - particularly the zanier groups like Moving Gelatine Plates, Brainstorm, or countrymen Supersister. Only in the 70s did we see this type of synthesizer experimentation, with electronic effects (including what sounds like some vocoder sounds) strewn throughout. However, while the analogs are certainly alluring, Kracq understood that the foundation is of prime importance, and they delivered an album's worth of bizarre, constantly changing compositions that will delight the fan of zany avant-ish jazz rock or Canterbury. A gem indeed, maybe a bit too early in the game for a classic, although we'll never know how this band could have panned out.
(Mike McLatchey, Gnosis)
CD Polumnia P011 (2005)
Recorded by Bert Vermijs on LuguSound Mobile at Agnes, 1979
Digitalized at Polumnia, 1999
Reanimated by Sam Samshuijzen at Studio Denkraam, Ede, 2005
Hey, anybody in the mood for a cheesy muzak with loops-&-tapes-&-drum machines and other push-button techniques! I doubt that you read these pages, but in any case, you won't find it on this output. False alarm, in short! No drum machines and, proper, drums, too. A light percussion is available, but only on one track. For their second and third albums KRACQ (a trio now) has gone far beyond the ground of traditional Progressive Rock, using only synthesizers, electric and acoustic guitars, vocals and vocalizations, but in a way you have never heard before, you may believe me! With no affectation and absolute inattention for then-typical trends in recording (1979 after all), on their follow-up outing Kracq presented an unbelievably original slab of psychedelically avant-garde Space Rock with still a rather strong inclination towards RIO-like forms, and also those of experimental Electronic Rock and some touch of the other musical disciplines: a guitar and symphonic Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion, and Space Metal. Well, all these are familiar terms, but they combined here the most marvelous way I could've expected. So I can say with assurance that this Dutch band was one of the very first bearers of Fifth Element. The music is both extensive and dense, eclecticism goes hand in hand with hypnotism, and all of this is throughout, even though one may think that all these said things are absolutely incompatible. Vocalizes and vocals are delivered in such a unique way as no one other band did before or later, ever. The amazingly extraordinary singing by Charlotte Rutten, which, sometimes, is not unlike the moan or howl of a ghost, is soaring over the strange, somewhat otherworldly musical landscapes built by very eccentric, yet, immediately perceivable (at least on a sensitive level) interplay between synthesizers and guitars. Fight (track 2) is the darkest place in this world of surrealism and the other flying unearthly entities:-) Partly due to overdubs, the parts of keyboards slightly dominate over those of guitar on most tracks, and those are especially rich in odd and related features. However, Charlotte's Blues and Slow (5 & 6) feature very few keyboard sounds and are based almost exclusively on the parts of electric and acoustic (or semi-acoustic) guitars, including the overdubbed ones, that are as quirky and queer as just everything on this CD. Generally, the album is very picturesque and is imaginative enough to catch up the brave listener by the wing of adventure and carry him away to the world of fantastical music.
Conclusion. Kracq is one of the most wonderful bands existed at the time of Progressive's decadence, and now it's clear why nobody has ever been interested in releasing their music but them themselves. The sound quality is far from excellent, but I believe this factor won't prevent the profound and open-minded Prog lovers to enjoy this exceedingly intricate, but really thrilling musical experience. Both CDs are highly recommended.
In the Dutch music scene of the seventies, Kracq (originally named King's Ransom And Carmine Queen) was a band that made one legendary, self titled album, Circumvision. I am still trying to track down an affordable vinyl version, but no such luck (yet). Until then, I will have to make do with Cellar Tapes 1, which was recorded in 1979, and re-animated in 2005 by Sam Samshuijzen in 2005. This album, by the way, is the first part of a trilogy.
Mooneater - Introspection is the long opener. Indeed , this album has no less than four songs over ten minutes. The recording is lo-fi, and shows a band with typically Italian progressive elements, going in the direction of avant-jazz (but in a soothing way) and although the vocals are not really operatic, I detect quite a bit of Opus Avantra. Later there is some recitation, which adds to the datedness. The song continues to be very synthesized, yet warm and rich in vibes. Mooneater - Fight is likely enough a continuation. This is strictly more avant-garde with the vocals going more in the direction of Diamanda Galas and the synths blurping and gurgling. There is even some fuzz guitar in the back.
Appendix & Practical II is short, and continues the vocal expresssions, which follow the spooky keyboards. The guitar resides somewhere in the back. The vocals have a very live feel. Adapted Letter is another long track, which opens with repeated loops. At first, it seems like a live track played in a bar, but then the loop stops and we come to a quirky synth dominated passage. There is even some singing here, not just vocal wailings, although Rutten does have the Dagmar Krause approach. The keys can be experimental, the use Fender Rhodes bring in a warm that the album really needs. Later, a sharp guitar sets in for some occasional outbursts. Towards the end the song starts to flow more, with the advent of sequencers, and repeated distorted lines over that.
Charlotte's Blues is only nine-minutes in length. The guitar is more dominant here, there are two of them in fact. The first one strumming, the second electric and, yes, bluesy. The vocals are very forward in this track. Later, the music becomes more like longing, and languid.
Ritmus - Slow is indeed a slow and rhythmic tune, rather melodic and for this band quite easy. The vocals are now deep in the music, although they are slowly coming forward, somewhere between singing and recitation. There is also a strong bass presence here, something I did not spot on earlier tracks at all.
The title track takes a long time to get started and has scary vocals by Rutten. The music is mainly effects played on guitar, and the music is very introspective (and hard to hear). Visions And Reality is another long and moody piece. The synths are strong here, taking the lead in developing that mood. Again, plenty of weird effects, almost musique concrete like. Later, we get some percussive... is that really piano? sounding like a bell of some kind. The melodies are subtle here.
I Can't Find It is a short track, a bit chaotic at first, with Rutten speaking and later vocalizing. Kracq is not your typical Dutch progband. The closest I could come is a mix of Opus Avantra and Dagmar Krause against a background dominated by synth and distorted guitar. The music never becomes loud or abrasive, it wasn't yet the time for that. It is more on the weird but introspective kind. The sonics aren't great, so if you expect a pristine sound: forget it. This is very much music of its time, following the Recommended Records crowd, although it comes off sounding more amateurish. The band is strong however, in building weird moods, led by the synthesizer, as on for instance Visions And Reality which I liked most.(Juriaan Hage, The axiom of choice)
CD Polumnia P012 (2005)
Recorded by Bert Vermijs on LuguSound Mobile at Agnes, 1979
Digitalized at Polumnia, 1999
CD Polumnia P013 (2005)
Recorder by Bert Vermijs on LuguSound Mobile at Agnes, 1979
Digitalized at Polumnia, 1999
Recorded by Bert Vermijs on LuguSound Mobile Digitalized at Polumnia.
Performed in 1977 and 1978
CD UAP-008/009 Polumnia P009 (1999 )