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No Borders by The Nihilist Spasm Band & Joe McPhee

Certainly many years ago, I would have not listened to one minute of these recordings. In fact, when I listened to them for the first time, I said out loud, "How can Joe record with these people?"

Now, the answer to the question is clear. McPhee begins the recording with his poem PARTY LIGHTS, modified to pay specific homage to the iconoclastic nature of the intentions of the band and the persistent realization of those intentions.

The Nihilist Spasm Band, since 1965, has pioneered what has been deemed "noise".No doubt such classification of their music is a means to escape grappling with it to assimilate its many facets. Yes, the sound is often raucous, disorderly, brash, obnoxious. Noise can be all those things and still make sense. The day today is past September 11. I write in the United States. The world is a different place. The past and the future collide and are hardly distinguishable.

The rhythm in this music unquestionably exists. Recognizing it is part of the listening. The music, the words, the discordance would not hold together if there were not a rhythmic structure behind it, underneath it, above it, below it and through it. The number of lines & phrases that weave through the rhythm is uncountable. One has to hear it as it is. As it is, becomes, develops, surrounds, penetrates. The only electronic instruments used are McPhee’s Casio sax and guitars played by Clement and Favro. The remaining instruments are acoustic. Bringing us to a reality. A basic sound reality. The bass & drums...gee, why not? Or how about a kazoo? McPhee often plays his sax or cornet at a distance and bolsters the band’s improvisation that is loud, over-miked sometimes fuzzy, but that does not matter. A sonic documentary of the present tense is taking place. When words play a central role to the music, they imply cynicism, nonsense, sarcasm and humor. The words are another instrument, only addressing the mind of the listener in a way that is different from how the music conveys meaning.

One CD is a recording from a live session in Ontario, Canada; the other is a studio recording. I treat both of them with the same focus, the same kind of attention to their truth, to their description of time. The actual CD package is tight, sensible & well-designed, indicative of the order within what could be construed as chaos. Just as noise when given the right context can be determined as fluid, so chaos can be approached theoretically and understood. What is an unknown is the mystery behind everything. It is the mystery that is pursued and explored. This activity can be qualified in some instances as innovation: within limits but without borders. All-encompassing.

I have listened to these recordings several times. They are among my favorite.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: The Nihilist Spasm Band & Joe McPhee
  • CD Title: No Borders
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: non musica rex
  • Musicians: John Boyle (kazoo, drums, thumb pinao), John Clement (guitar, drums), Bill Exley (voice, kazoo, cooking pot), Murray Favro (guitar, drums), Hugh McIntyre (bass), Art Pratten ( violin, water pipe), Joe McPhee ( tenor sax, pocket cornet, didgeridoo, Casio sax, voice)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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