No-Neck Blues Band

No Neck Blues Band and Embryo

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It goes and it goes. You may have an idea of what you think a full collaboration between New York's underground improv pioneers the No-Neck Blues Band (NNCK) and Germany's longstanding Krautrock experimentalists Embryo (alive in one form or another for over 30 years) might sound like. In some ways, you're right. But nothing quite prepares the listener for the understated, snaky, playful, yet ambiguous interaction that goes on here. Embryo have consistently defied categorization with their incorporation of various ethnic and aboriginal elements in their music. While it's true that Christian Burchard has been the only constant member, he has brought in players from Australia, various regions of Africa, Laplanders, and all manner of indigenous musicians to add to his mix of composition and improvisation. NNCK have been from the land of strange from the word go. Their numerous releases have defied easy pigeonholing and their insistence on remaining anonymous (until this release where every musician's name is listed on the back cover, but there's still no information about who plays what or where). This collaboration walked the wire from the outset and could have gone either way. It stays on the spare side of excess, though there is always a lot going on. Check the opener, "Wieder das Erste Mal," where a tom-tom, hand percussion, marimbas, shakers, a cimbalom, and a moaning voice usher in nine and a half minutes of trance where flutes and voices slip into the mix gradually, almost imperceptibly, until there is a wall of sound where the listener falls in the middle of the swirl. Its tribal nature never breaks down, but there is so much more in this mysterious meld that one can forget the rhythms, because they enter the unconscious. "Five Grams of the Widow," a brief piece recorded live, is almost jazz with arranged horns, vibes, toy pianos, etc., following a head for a short period. One has to wonder if the piece was excerpted for this release. It would have been nice if this one had stretched out more. "Die Farbe Aus Dem All," also moves into out rock territory and becomes an entity that engages jazz and Krautrock more than anything else here. The wailing horns are a real turn on, as is the intensity of the work. Both of the last two tunes here take a while to find their groove: "Zweiter Sommer" is laid-back and exotic, full of flutes and hammered dulcimers and subtly chanted voices; "Das Erste Mal," a revisit of the first track, is over 13 minutes and finds its groove about halfway through. Again, percussion and voices (with some throat singing) lead the charge, but it floats and begins to move and change shape, shifting constantly for about the last seven minutes until it ends up so far from where it began that one is likely to wonder what has just transpired. This is magic music; it melts, shifts, transforms itself as it displaces time. It goes and it goes.

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