HOPES AND FEARS is the first of three releases by the Art Bears, a band that emerged from the ashes of Henry Cow. The core trio was drummer Chris Cutler, guitarist/violinist Fred Frith, and singer Dagmar Krause. They're joined by a handful of other players, including former bandmates Lindsay Cooper (reeds) and Tim Hodgkinson (keyboards). The album opens with Brecht-Eisler's "On Suicide," a song which sets the tone for the work as a whole. The album's lyrics turn a sharp eye on dubious political machinations and the attendant suffering brought upon the masses. Krause's vocals, with her strong Germanic accent, give these songs a dramatic bearing; they are at once tradition cabaret presentations and modern experimental pieces. Percussive, tape and studio effects wrap the music in a layer of invention, leading to continued surprise despite repeated listenings. Where Henry Cow focused on extended improvisations, the Art Bears prefer concise songs. A masterful work, HOPES AND FEARS can serve as an entry point into the mingled catalogs of either band.