No-Neck Blues Band Qvaris

[5 Rue Christine; 2005]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: free folk, kraut rock, kitchen sink rock
Others: Sunburned Hand of the Man, Can, Cerberus Shoal

To Hell with the '60s and the '70s, these are the golden years in the United States. I'd rather live in this era than any other era in the history of mankind. Although I am dismayed with the current political climate in the United States, and I feel that the apocalypse may come any day now, I am optimistic about the state of music.

Bands like the New York City-based free-form collective No-Neck Blues Band generate my feelings about the current state of music. Their riotous mash-up of free jazz, rock, folk, noise, and psychedelica is dizzying and, for the most part, logical.

The band has been around since 1992 and issued a wide-array of releases, many of them long out of print. Qvaris, their first release for Kill Rock Stars' sister label 5 Rue Christine, is the first widely available release since 2001's Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Words Will Never Hurt Me. It is also one of the band's more essential releases, as it achieves unfathomable heights in its quest for the perfect sound.

There are threads that run through Qvaris, but the album has the tendency to absorb the listener in the sound, thereby nullifying intellectual over-analyzation. The album begins with the relatively sedate "The Doon," a minimalist guitar structure built around a tame feedback drone and sparse percussion. The mood segues over into the first few minutes of "Live Your Myth in Grease" but quickly melds into wah-pedal driven orgy of space sounds. This brief lapse is one of the only points on the album where the band's loose ends permeate through the band's groove.

For the remainder of the album, NNCK give the world a taste of their spellbinding madness while remaining cohesive. "Boreal Guts" features an overtly funky Eastern-influenced rhythm that collapses into a quiet, spooky jam lead by a hand drum. "Dark Equus" starts off a vocal-centered demonstration of the band's ability to utilize empty space. It builds up with chaotic percussion, ringing guitar effects, and wild spare saxophone lines that echo and dissolve, as if the band is playing into a black hole.

Though the band has self-edited, trimming down song times, they still manage to include two 11-minute scorchers. The highlight of the long-form songs, and the album for that matter, is "Lugnagall," a bouncy number that manages to shift from drum-and-organ soft drone a latter-day John Fahey-inspired guitar raga to a wavy Japanese psychedelic rhythm in a matter of minutes.

"Lugnagall" not only captures the beauty of the album, but it summarizes why the band is vital to modern music. Namely because they are a constant reminder music of all eras in every part of the world is an exciting puzzle to be fit together in a work of modern art.

1. Doon, The
2. Live Your Myth In Grease
3. Black Pope, The
4. Qvaris Theme
5. Catepillar Heart, The
6. Qvaris Theme (Lopiop Hearing Qvaris)
7. Boreal Gluts
8. Dark Equus
9. Qvaris Theme (Wohihb)
10. Lugnagall
11. Vaticon Blue (Theme End)