NO NECK BLUES BAND
1966, the critic Susan Sontag, published her seminal book on criticism,
Against Interpretation, where she argued that in the future, critics
would have to learn to experience art instead of trying to excavate
it. She could have been writing about the No Neck Blues Band,
a collective of New York and Boston improvisers, formed in 1992
by, amongst others, multi-instrumentalist Keith Connolly and percussionist
In fact, the band believes so much in the musical experience that
they shun interviews and they dislike being identified, a sharp
contrast to the world of American and $ingapore Idols, where the
music takes a backseat to glamour. In a rare interview early this
year, an anonymous No-Neck member confirms the trancelike quality
of their music: "It's like if you back further out into space,
all of the sudden you perceive all these balls in space in motion,
and if you plunge far in with a microscope, you're going to see
the same thing. In that way, everything we do is the same. It's
the same thing that we're doing every time. It's just that with
the proximity that you have to a given album or a given listening
experience, you're going to get a variety of sounds."
No Neck's off-world fusion spans various regions of ethnic music
and is done within the frame of free jazz and improvisational
music. For that reason, this CD's collaboration with German experimentalists,
Embryo (led by Christian Buchard, ex-Amon Duul II), is long awaited.
Buchard's late-'60s band, Amon Duul II were already incorporating
world music into their progressive rock experiments. Embryo is
the sum of Buchard's cataloguing of Middle Eastern, African and
For this album, Buchard dragged his sick drummer, Dieter Serfas,
out of bed. As he recalls: "His drumming was like he knew everything.
The No Neck Blues Band was flying with us around him. Little melodies
we never had heard, different moods, rhythmic interplays, and
in between the music making it was like we had been together all
Wieder das erste Mal begins the album with a 10-minute-plus Middle
Eastern jam with a female vocalist wailing throughout. Cool xylophones
lead off the second track, Five Grams of the Widow, where tablas,
string and wind instruments interplay around it. After Marja's
Cat begins with what sounds like an amplification of a sheesha,
with the sound of air bubbles blown through water. It's on track
five, Die Farbe aus dem All, that the No Neck's free jazz spirit
bursts through where the blowing becomes more frenzied and the
percussion more frenetic. Das erste Mal ends the album with quiet
bells and everyone plays small tunes to keep the jam flowing.
Echoing the opening track, the female vocalist returns while one
of the male members helps by mumbling along.
The whole album is a ritual experience in the form of a community
jam. For once, you are not allowed to look at the credit list
to see who plays what. There wasn't any on this advance disc.
You are instead asked to empty yourself. From the embryo, nothing
turned itself inside out. - (8) Philip Cheah
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