No-Neck Blues Band - Qvaris
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No-Neck Blues Band

The No-Neck Blues Band have always existed on sort of a shadowy plain, operating almost more like a commune than a music group with an fluctuating inclusive membership with most members preferring to remain anonymous. Although they have played other venues, the group has played most shows at The Hint House, their live-in performance space in the Bronx, and in the past ten years or so the group has created and released a sprawling discography of unique improvised work that Incorporates elements of folk, psychedelia, free jazz, noise, drone, and just about everything else.

Recorded at the Hint House, Qvaris is one of the more developed releases that the group has created. It's also their first non self-released work in several years, arriving on the 5 Rue Christine label. Calling the release more commercial might be a push, but it's definitely a bit more refined. "The Doon" opens the release and the track rumbles with a dreary mystic feel that feels like the soundtrack to a gypsy foretelling the end times. "Live Your Myth In Grease" is even more powerful, with thick, juicy guitars backing up splintered guitar notes while a marshy rhythm section slogs around behind it all.

From there, the album gets a lot less grounded a lot more weird. "The Black Pope" is all eerie squeals of keyboard, horn squawks, and shantytown percussion while "Qvaris Theme" starts a four-track repeated motif with more squirrelly keyboards and guitar-string pinging. "The Caterpillar Heart" throws together more trembling guitar notes and scrapes with some more random percussion and while the effect works for awhile, the twelve minute track simply runs out of ideas and keeps on fumbling the same direction for far too long.

The best tracks on the release are when the group really locks into things, and the results are really quite magical. "Boreal Gluts" chugs along like some sort of freaked-out surf rock instrumental that melts into a puddle of mush and then back into an eerie finale while "Lugnagall" is true 70s psych rock with loads of jangly percussion, lots of flanged guitars, and even some chanting male and female vocals. Although this release may very well be the most refined from the group, it's still not a clear walk in the park (but if you've followed them at all, you know that). Occasionally outstanding, sometimes frustrating, just about what you'd expect.

rating: 6.510
Aaron Coleman 2005-12-15 21:25:06