What are you gonna do with Non Credo? Kira Vollman and Joseph Berardi make the most improbable music imaginable, but those who listen are likely to be amazed. Now that she’s been perfecting her vocal techniques for a quarter century or something, Vollman can produce expert juxtapositions of opera, whispery narration, animal howl, witch gibbering, assorted mimicry — it’s goddamn creepy, and perversely fascinating. (Her bass-clarinet playing makes the grade, too.) Meanwhile, Berardi lays down sampled loops, steamy atmospheres and dark rhythms that complement the insanity in ways only longtime collaboration can achieve. This is the definition of originality — “deep resonance,” says my wife. – Greg Burk / Metaljazz
Impropera – Non Credo – Joseph Berardi– sampling, keyboards, samples and Kira Vollman– voice, bass clarinet, prollo-tone, glockenspiel, hand perc., lyrics. This duo makes you believe that art rock could actually come up with something interesting. It’s what Tom Waits might do if he went wholly avant garde and it might get you to believe that Brecht/Weill still live. Not bad for just one record. L.A.-based, Non Credo try to embrace it all and make B-movie sense of everything. Or nonsense, I should say. Refreshing, unpretentious and self-mocking, it’s not one to miss by any stretch. Vollman is a phenomenal vocalist -I think I’d rather listen to her than Diamanda Galas, who covers much the same waterfront. Berardi is equally impressive in his sphere. It’s best to not concern yourself as to whether this is pop, art rock, improv or what, just jump right in and play (in every sense). – Richard Grooms / The Improvisor
After the brilliant Happy Wretched Family, Non Credo, a duo from Los Angeles, made up of Joseph Berardi and Kira Vollman, returns to the scene of the crime with a new album “Impropera“. It took them more than ten years for this album to see the light of day. So, the obvious question is: Was it worth the wait? If I had answered after hearing Impropera for the first time, my answer would be no, but now I feel completely different. Let go of all your expectations and musical preconceptions because Joseph and Kira will destroy them. People who know the band might also be surprised by the music, or even disappointed, but do not despair, your efforts will be rewarded. It is true that Joseph Berardi unfortunately completely disregarded the drum kit for this effort and the guitar is almost non-existent as well. The record is already unconventional because of this, but the album hides amazing depths that can only come to the fore after several listenings. Only the best musicians are able to conjure up something like this.
This time, the pair decided on a radically different approach than on Happy Wretched Family. The rocking parts are almost completely gone and so are the drums. Kira does use some percussion, but this cannot replace a drum kit. Kira’s voice is therefore even more exposed. Her vocal acrobatics are even crazier and more unpredictable. There are even fewer pure melodies and there is more experimenting. Lovers of Christian Vander’s screeches and of Dagmar Krause’s style will most certainly enjoy this. Besides the vocal havoc, Kira also uses her crystal clear operatic voice, which, combined with the keyboards, makes the music sound almost completely classical at times. If the rock moments are missing, the avant-garde elements are still thick and fast, both when it comes to the keyboards and the vocals. Despite the absence of rocking moments, there is plenty going on with Kira’s beautiful operatic voice, the classical keyboards and the avant-garde segments. Eventually, you get used to how different the music is and accept it for what it is. Its beauty and virtues, although different to Happy Wretched Family but equally as impressive, come shining through.
Just like on Happy Wretched Family, the lyrics are important here as well. Kira Vollman knows how to weave some magic with the words she uses and is able to create some outstanding atmospheres. She is able to create a dark world that sometimes seems turned upside down. Her lyrics can be a bit twisted and frightening at times, but that is all a part of the catharsis that the lyrics combined with the music are able to generate. Kira also occasionally uses a seductive Southern belle accent and the contrast between some of the monstrosities she utters and the attractive voice is highly convincing.
This album by Non Credo may not be as easily accessible as its predecessor, but there is a great deal of charm in the music. The qualities are simply a bit different than on the previous efforts of this pair. At first, the record seemed a bit too classical and avant-garde and I thought it was sorely missing the rock element, but on subsequent listenings, once you get past that mental barrier which disables you from discovering music that is so different, it becomes easier. Even people who are into experimental music have preconceptions as to what experimental music should sound like. It was like that with me. Impropera didn’t fit into that category which would specifically suit me. But luckily, I got past my prejudice and let the music crawl under my skin and into my soul. This was very fortunate because Impropera is a glorious album, which could easily frighten people away after only a few minutes with its heavy doses of experimenting. If you like experimental music, I urge you to make an effort with this album because you will reap the rewards later on. – Rockline
Impropera – I am not acquainted with this band’s previous releases, but what I can easily conclude is that Non Credo’s music is totally different, bizarre and extremely original. And the use of these adjectives is not even enough to make it justice. But the truth is that the right ones are very hard to find.
Non Credo is a duo, which is really hard to imagine when you start listening to the album, as so many instruments and gadgets are used that you can almost swear this is a full ensemble’s work.
The first impact (if it’s possible to choose one) will probably be provoked by Kira Vollman’s operatic voice, which is really fantastic and adds flair and emotion to the bizarre music that most of the times dwells behind. But all the other components of this bands musicality have some sort of impact on the listener.
Taking in consideration that Non Credo plays a sort of hybrid between Rock-in-Opposition, Avant-Garde, Chamber, Experimental and Zeuhl, you may well start to imagine the real extension of imaginative grounds this band walks. The instruments used to achieve this are countless, and may include children instruments, toys, objects of some sort and also some real music instruments (ehehehe), mainly of a percussive and keyboard nature. Also clarinet, accordion and strange basing samples are used with eloquence.
Strange and unique, Impropera is an experience that will undoubtedly leave the listener of its right target (fans of the most intriguing, bizarre and experimental music) salivating with the same ease it will make a casual listener and those who like more melodic and direct neo or symphonic approaches completely dazzled and running for their lives… Where do I fit in these categories?? I’ll keep it a secret! – Nuno at ProGGnosis
Impropera – There are several reasons that justify my instant liking of Non Credo, arrived at their third album in 18 years (why don’t you learn, dysentery-struck self-releasers?) and – mea maxima culpa – for the first time to my attention with “Impropera”. One of them is their very name, which in my idiom means “I don’t believe” or “I don’t think so”, thus involuntarily representing my way of reacting to most anything that happens. Then again, their titles mix various languages in absurdly funny meanings, an illustrious example being “Faux Cazzo” which I’ll gladly leave you to translate. On top of all this, their music reveals so many facets and layers that every listening session adds peculiar pleasures and improbable ingredients to an already satisfactory recipe. Joe Berardi is a percussionist who uses samples – make that “composes” with samples – on the spot, during improvised anti-structures or preconceived architectures; Kira Vollman is a portentous vocalist, also playing bass clarinet in a way that could make many respected instrumentalists green with envy. “Impropera” (which is a fusion of Improvised Opera but it also could mean “Insults” in Latin) contains nineteen tracks that were originally played by ear, yet the duo was so well practiced in their rendition that they decided to record them as a sort of “impromptu compositional documentation”. I won’t be annoying you with the dozens of (often unlikely) comparisons that I found on the press release; in that sense, all I found is a slight contact with the Shelley Hirsch/David Weinstein duo every once in a long while. But it ends there, as Non Credo have their own distinct axioms and postulates – and a great sense of humour bathed in cinematic sauce. Noirish atmospheres, implausible songs and hilarious hurly-burly are interpreted by Vollman with Teutonic power, munchkin edginess and needlepoint accuracy; some of her lines are technically frightening and, at one particular moment, her vibrato in the high range had me thinking about Gizmo singing the main theme of “Gremlins”, if you’re familiar with that one. Berardi eviscerates his samples, raising car-horn hells and pulsating mental hop-scotches at the flick of a couple of switches, transposing a contrabass until it sounds like a jew’s harp and having a dozen of non-existent march bands clash in state-of-the-hiss, 8-bit wonderful sonic miasmas; yet, it all sounds like a well-refined score. I could add another thousand words but I’d probably still fail to convincingly describe this fantastic album. Add it to your daily necessities at least for a couple of months and enjoy its brutally caressing, delicately sandblasting, strong-minded aesthetic. Am I exaggerating? Non Credo (sorry, I couldn’t resist). – MASSIMO RICCI of Touching Extremes
HAPPY WRETCHED FAMILY: 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. ~ François Couture, ALL MUSIC GUIDE
Happy Wretched Family – Non Credo – RIO/Avant-Prog…
It took them seven years to release this effort after the great Reluctant Hosts, but it was definitely worth the wait. Vollman and Berardi not only managed to do an album that was a worthy successor to the debut, but actually created something that in many ways surpasses it.
It is extremely difficult to define exactly what kind of music this pair plays. Anything goes, basically. Sometimes we hear them doing some sophisticated chamber rock in the style of the masters of the genre, Univers Zero, sometimes we hear them doing heavier stuff, like the metal parts in Piano Urine. A lot of their music is indeed, like most avant-garde, based on dissonance, but it is obvious that they have an ear for a good melody as well. So they combine these sometimes very catchy tunes with experiments. And it all works amazingly well. You never get a feeling like anything is forced or out of place. An important element is the voice of Kira Vollman, which could put Non Credo in the category of zeuhl music, especially if I were being nitpicky. Vollman uses a lot of different vocal techniques, just like Vander in Magma, so that so many different and ambitious sounds emanate from her. It is truly amazing. She also sings in a very operatic way, which is another zeuhl characteristic. But anyway you look at it, the music speaks for itself. And the music is still as fresh, original and sounds as wonderful now as it did 15 years ago. If you are a fan of challenging music and do not mind a bit of vocal havoc, then I urge you to buy this record.
The duo are helped on a couple of tracks by Bernard Sauser-Hall on keyboards. His contribution is most noticeable on the brilliant Piano Urine, a true portrayal of all the aspects of the avant-garde. Not that the duo needs any help really. They manage just fine on their own. Berardi is mostly an excellent drummer, but he put down some keyboards and guitar parts as well. Kira Vollman is a superb vocalist, using the operatic qualities of her voice to her advantage and giving the music a zeuhl edge. She also plays keyboards, guitars, basses and the clarinet. They truly are a talented pair, but unfortunately they do not get the recognition they deserve.
This music takes a lot of risks and most of them pay off. That’s what distinguishes the good experimenters from the bad. Non Credo know when to draw the line, especially when they find a sound or melody they like. This is not for fans of safe, middle of the road music, or music written in the established musical forms that are deemed ‘pretty”. Non Credo, like most of the best experimental bands, create their own aesthetic values and if you give them a chance, they will blow your mind! – Review by Rok Podgrajsek – Prog Archives
“The hieroglyphics that filled in the spaces” – Non Credo, HAPPY WRETCHED FAMILY – Some bands want to rock and roll all night and party every day. Bands like Non Credo, fortunately, understand that the proper role of night time is to scare the fuck out of you (I didn’t mean that literally, although lyrics like “His body conceded his yield; there’s a good boy… He turns away feeling sick for tasting all forbidden fruit dropped along his way” suggest less than full respect for whatever fuck remains in you). And the daytime? Well, that’s for voice lessons and the most neurotically inventive production re-takes you could ask for.
Kira Vollman, in addition to playing clarinet, bass guitar, lead guitar, and keyboards here, is probably the single most impressive vocalist in my music collection. Not necessarily my favorite, but the most controlled, every word, pitch, choice of octave (from deep contralto to glass-smashing soprano to kneecap-smashing alto hiss), nuance, minor roll of the tongue. She writes and vocalizes the opening track as a Latin mass, the first of many tricks, all of them by her as sole vocalist— her other styles include pop song, writhing speech-in-tounges, soft tongues-in-cheek, sprechstimme, and wordlessly melodic oratorio, switched among at a moment’s notice for appropriate dramatic effect. Add in a bit of processing and radio sampling, and “Miliza Three Flights Down”, over its warped drumming, sounds like as a one-act play featuring a choking opera soprano, a hapless Nazi officer from a tasteless sitcom who rescues her and restores her to operatc normality, an English-speaking mouse, a choir of Valkyries, an annoyed neighbor, and John Belushi as Samurai Florist, plus two computer-generated voices calling in their parts over defective phone lines. I suppose you could ask why— but I’d answer “cuz it’s really cool”. As for the playing, she and Joseph Berardi (drums, percussion, marimba, keyboards, cello, viola) are great examples of why avant-garde bad notes and weird timings are different from junior high orchestras doing the same: just a continual and clear sense that everything here has been carefully selected as the single aptest option, and that playing a _different_ wrong note, or maybe a right one (which happens when necessary), has been considered and rejected for plain old ineffectiveness.
Does it sound like anything? The melodies recall the Slapp Happy/ Henry Cow collaboration DESPERATE STRAIGHTS. The strange layered rhythmic textures are like Laika when calmest and somewhat Miranda Sex Garden-ish at densest. The ambience is much like Portishead, in the soundtrack noir and the cynical female-voiced words, but far busier. The strings suggest alternate opening themes for Jaws. If you don’t know those names, well, keep the adjectives surrounding them and assume Non Credo sound weird, okay? Even if you do follow the comparisons, they don’t account for the keyboards. Now, industrial music is pretty gloomy, but it does seem built around the notion that machines work: clang, 2, 3, 4, clang, 2, 3, 4. What Non Credo make, as decoration not main content, is industrial music for a world where record of your credit payments gets eaten, where your computer “has commited an illegal operation” and _it_ punishes _you_, where your TV gets static and your electrical connections get erratic, where those power brakes you never asked GM and Ford to invent require a few seconds to get the power going. The irony, of course, is that sounds like that are far harder to make than a programmed Energizer loop, especially when you care about making it sound good. Truth ain’t just stranger than fiction, it’s more work. Aren’t you glad Non Credo did some of it for you. – 33 rebellions per minute
Non Credo “Reluctant Hosts” (No Man’s Land, nml 8814, 2000, CD) One of my most longed-for dream reissues finally makes it to digital! Only about 12 years late but that’s ok; I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I had almost given up though; but it was certainly worth the wait. Reluctant Hosts was originally released on LP in the late 80s by the same label as that who here resurrects it. Even a quick listen will convince one that Non Credo are a cosmic singularity if there ever was one – art music of the highest standard, presented in song form, by a Los Angeles-based duo of truly gifted and inspired musical alchemists who do turn their raw materials to gold. Where Non Credo particularly leaves others in the dust, is in Kira Vollman‘s vocal ability. Robust, resonant and full-bodied, it could never be mistaken for the kind of diaphanous nasal whine that too often characterizes American female singers, especially common in this particular genre. The operatic quality she brings to Non Credo adds a dimension that is usually missing from experimental music. If I didn’t know better I’d likely pinpoint them as Swedish, French, or Dutch. Instrumentally, Kira and her partner Joe Berardi (no slouch himself), cover all the necessary battery needed to paint the mischievous and wickedly clever portraits framed by the Non Credo spirit: (she) voice, bass, clarinet; (he) percussion, cello, accordion. Both of them ace Keyboards as well, coloring in the details of 12 musical figurines that briskly whisk you through a guided amusement park tour inhabited by strange denizens and spooky imagery. The music is witty, flawlessly executed, and exuberant, even where it detours into darker realms. In addition, they added 12 more songs that were composed for soundtrack works not included on the LP. We covered Non Credo’s second album (Happy Wretched Family) about five issues back, and it was even better than Reluctant Hosts. Both are definitely recommended items. Mike Ezzo / EXPOSÉ Magazine
Reluctant Hosts – Non Credo – RIO/Avant-Prog… Non Credo started off their recording career in 1988 with Reluctant Hosts, an album that would mark a long and artistically successful relationship between Joe Berardi and Kira Vollman. There have only been two other albums after this debut, but if you have quality like this, quantity isn’t that important. Reluctant Hosts was long out of print, but it was luckily rereleased in 2000 and there are still a few copies floating around here and there. If you have a chance, pick this album up as it’s a true gem for fans of experimental music.
The first part of the album contains 8 vocal tracks and one composed instrumental, while the second part is filled with mostly improvisations (I think). All the vocal tracks are great, with traditionally twisted and fun lyrics by Kira Vollman. The styles vary from almost cabaret songs, to what sounds like almost pop (for Non Credo) and experimental parts that Non Credo would later become renowned for on their Happy Wretched Family album. There’s also a circus-like atmosphere on the instrumental “Ask the Bearded Lady” (a fitting title).
The second part of the album is comprised of songs without any conventional vocals, but Kira does create some havoc with her vocal experiments. In this part of the record, we can hear Non Credo basically doing any genre you please – from jazz, classical, avant-garde, ambient. It’s almost as if they were trying to show off their credentials. Look at us! This is what we can do! But I see nothing wrong with this, at least not with Non Credo, because every segments sounds like a natural progression of the next one and nothing seems forced.
Kira Vollman’s lyrics are again spectacular. She creates her own world of dark humour, where she takes sometimes extremely tragic events and puts a humorous twist on them. The standout tracks in this department are (for me) “Looking in the Window” and “Thank You Mommy”. I can’t think of anyone who is able to create something so funny, yet thoughtful from a theme that is basically very sombre.
It is sometimes hard to believe that Non Credo is only a duo. True, there are some guest musicians here, but most of the work is done by Joe and Kira. I am particularly impressed by Joe’s work on percussion, the keyboard parts (from both) and naturally Kira’s vocals. Perhaps, this is their most eclectic work to date in terms of style, as they seem to effortlessly switch between so many different genres, like classical, jazz, avant-garde, cabaret, pop,…
The only part of the album that Non Credo’s inexperience is evident is in choosing the song sequence. They put all the tracks with the lyrics in the first part of Reluctant Hosts, while the second part contains some ambient and experimental passages. On their two following releases they would remedy this and combine the tracks more wisely.
Apart from the one shortcoming I mentioned, Non Credo’s debut is nothing short of excellent. There are no signs of immaturity, the music is well crafted and cleaver as always. The lyrics again stand out, as does the wacky (and serious) music. Joe and Kira made an incredible album with Reluctant Hosts, one that transcends genre classification. This album shows the enthusiasm of musicians eager to explore new musical worlds and the craftsmanship of experienced composers. Non Credo has to be heard to be believed! – Review by Rok Podgrajsek – Prog Archives
RELUCTANT HOSTS: Released in 1988, Reluctant Hosts was the first album by the duet Non Credo (Kira Vollman on vocals, bass, clarinet, and keyboards; Joseph Berardi on percussion and keyboards). This is a collection of avant pop songs dominated by cold 1980s synthetic sounds (keyboards, drum machines) that are balanced out by Vollman’s warm, almost operatic voice. Comparisons would have to include Kate Bush and Anna Homler. The conventionally structured songs fall mostly within the three- to four-minute range, but the writing and arrangements include lots of departures, including some very original use of the voice, dissonances, and aesthetic contrasts between childlike innocence and angular melodies. The occasional use of clarinet and accordion also brings an original touch. Highlights include “Why?,” the creepy “Looking in the Window” (“I see you, Mr. Thomas, I see you,” warns Vollman), and “Agnes’ Lament.” The music on Reluctant Hosts is typical of the late-’80s European avant pop of bands like Zero Pop, No Secrets in the Family, No Safety, and many other acts recording for Rec Rec or No Man’s Land at the time. Non Credo would produce a second album in 1995, including more improvisation and eschewing regular song structures. For the 2001 CD reissue, No Man’s Land has added 13 tracks recorded in 1987-1988, including compilation contributions and some unreleased music for a radio play, gathering on one disc all of the duo’s early material. AMG EXPERT REVIEW — François Couture – ALL MUSIC GUIDE