Henry Flynt & Nova'Billy - "The International" (Nova'Billy)
No one really needed to bring together persnickety post-Aquarian art students, risk-taking noise junkies, closeted Deadheads and long-haul Southern road-rockers. But art isn’t about need. And Henry Flynt done did it, in excess, over 30 years ago. Henry Flynt, “cognitive nihilist” philosopher, gleeful contrarian and perennial spur up the ass of the Fluxus movement, was one hippie-artist-intellectual who had a lot of fun dumbing it down. He’s currently the subject of an expansive reissue campaign, but only a few of those will display the freewheeling fusion and indescribable vertigo of Nova’Billy, his mix of Velvet-y dissonance and country-blues, active in NYC in the otherwise largely irrelevant haze of the mid-‘70s. Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Henry Flynt took on the ‘60s right in his time and out of his mind. In his salad days, Flynt kept a lot of auspicious company, from Yoko Ono to La Monte Young to the Velvets themselves (he pinched for John Cale on electric violin at one juncture). But his true interest was always philosophy, which, in part, led him to advocate art as pure recreation. (That’s an obscene simplification, but somehow I suspect that Flynt would approve.) He idolized John Coltrane for his abandon. Nova’Billy is, to stoop to an obscene simplification, what a rock-informed Coltrane might have done to the hillbilly stomp of Flynt’s home turf. For all of his fun-loving rhetoric, Flynt’s M.O. was a famously calculated one. It’s easy to imagine him coming up with one of his obtuse titles (“Virginia Trance,” “Lonesome Train Dreams,” “Stoned Jam,” “Double Spindizzy,” “Amphetamine Rhapsody”) and telling his esteemed associates (including Jim McAllister on guitar, Peter Gordon on keys and Paul Colin on sax) to just go, but by all accounts, it wasn’t like that. Everything was carefully thought out, carefully orchestrated… it was the most tightly controlled sort of chaos, but was no less chaotic for it.
Knowing that makes Nova’Billy the rarest sort of aural brain candy, a collection of seemingly abstract jams that can be fruitfully revisited and picked apart over dozens of listens.