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No Neck Blues Band - Meets the Clear People with Mystery Gypped: Live at Ken's Electric Lake

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Artist: No Neck Blues Band

Album: Meets the Clear People with Mystery Gypped: Live at Ken's Electric Lake

Label: Locust

Review date: Oct. 16, 2007


No Neck Blues Band - "Track 08" (Meets the Clear People with Mystery Gypped: Live at Ken's Electric Lake)


The Beardosí output can be as frustrating as it is exhilarating. At its worst, the collective spirit of dynamic improvisation becomes submerged in a quagmire of stagnant excess; at its best, musical worlds are bridged and unique textures are born, swell and morph. This double-disc reissue falls into the latter category, and it has made me re-evaluate the whole history of this long-running New York aggregate.

It is entirely possible that the collaborative spirit pervading this nine-year-old session provides its strength, as the New Yorkers joined up with fledgling Sunburned folks under their Clear People moniker. Whatever the reason, the set is a study in creative listening, the recorded sound as good as anything this group has committed to tape, and to top it all, the musical variation is revelatory. The dreamy introduction, gliding in on an airy mixture of mildly effected guitars and percussive rustlings, prefigures much of NNCKís more recent ventures into multi-leveled drone. Serene and introverted, it presents a group dynamic largely absent from other releases of the period.

The albumís opening three minutes doesnít prepare you for the stark tribal beauty offered up on its second track. It would have been easy for this 19-minute slow-builder to disintegrate into meaninglessness, but as the steadily chunked rhythm supports flute, then saxophone, all supplemented by alien vocal utterances and other nameless primitivies, the brew of simplistic sophistication bewitches as time is lost in blissful detail.

The journey is the point, and it is impossible to describe. How the second discís first track continues where disc one left off is amazing in itself, but the voyage to the East that comprises disc two might be one of the most satisfying statements this collective has made. As pulse fades and is supplanted by a droned ambiance, a very real sense of architecture brings completion.

This is essential listening, not only for the NNCK and Sunburned enthusiasts that might have missed it the first time around, but for anyone wishing to explore the best of what was once new and weird in America.

By Marc Medwin

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