Right when the Nihilist Spasm Band was beginning to repeat itself, transforming into a caricature, the group released No Borders, a fresh, stunning two-CD set with guest Joe McPhee. Disc one was recorded live on October 27, 2000; disc two culls studio recordings from the day before and after. Only four of the 18 tracks feature all seven musicians playing at the same time. On the other ones, subgroups explore exciting new directions. Vocalist Bill Exley and McPhee's "Duet" is a disquieting drone piece. "Trio" puts together the booming bass of Hugh McIntyre, John Clement's drum pounding, and the saxophonist's free jazz train of thought. That last element is the source of a number of surprises. McPhee can play abstract free improv, but here he often falls back to instant head lines. On "Meateater," he develops a melody, something unheard in the group's "repertoire." Exley screams to disrupt him, Art Pratten bursts into a violin frenzy to drag him into flaming dialogues, but McPhee insists. The resulting tug of war is a lot of fun and ends with the jazzman screaming his lungs out. Other highlights include "Unlikely," a duet between Murray Favro and Pratten, "Boing," and "Going Too Far." Exley brought in new texts, true to the group's nihilist ideas, which he delivers in his usual declamatory style. The NSB's level of musicianship has rarely been so high and McPhee, as unlikely as it may sound, turns out to be a perfect partner, heartiliy contributing to the music while motivating the other players to give their best. The only negative point is the fact that Exley's voice was recorded with an awful microphone during the live session. Still, No Borders comes strongly recommended to both fans and newcomers.
AllMusic Review by François Couture