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Embryonnck [Staubgold]

In 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 Dave Nuss.

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 Asian styles.

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 the time."

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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