Volapük were a somewhat unusual RIO outfit formed in 1993 by percussionist Guigou Chenevier, who was already known for being a founder of Etron Fou Leloublan, who became a charter member of the Rock in Opposition collective in 1978 along with other groups including Henry Cow, Univers Zero, Stormy Six, and Samla Mammas Manna. Bass clarinettist Michel Mandel received a master’s degree in music from the Grenoble Academy of Music while cellist Guillaume Saurel studied at the Avignon Academy of Music. Yes, what we have here is an instrumental trio bringing together instruments in a very strange indeed. This recording, taken from their 1998 Polish tour finds Guigou providing drums, saxophone, vocals and electronics, Michel is on bass clarinet, clarinets, taragot, vocal and Guillame cello and vocal.

If one could imagine a RIO avant prog chamber trio experimenting more than one could even expect from that description, then possibly one might be able to somewhat understand what is taking place in front of our ears. I can only imagine the Polish audiences were somewhat blown away by what they were experiencing as there is perfect silence during the course of each song, although they are all well received once the audience gets themselves back to reality. Influenced by Art Zoyd? Definitely, but being taken in a quite different direction. The band released four studio albums during their existence (they broke up in 2010), yet this was the only live album which was a limited release on a Polish label back in 1999. That this has now been revived by Cuneiform is wonderful, as not only is the label the logical home for this release, but this is something which will be of great interest to fans of RIO as not only is this wonderful historically but is something which is simply fascinating and exciting throughout. There is a freshness to this, a sense of no-one (including the musicians) really sure where the journey is going to take them or what the end destination may be.

All I know is that I am now intrigued and can see I need to further investigate the music of  Volapük as they walked through musical boundaries as if they did not exist. 8/10 Kev Rowland