Thursday, October 1, 2015

Recording: The Nihilist Spasm Band

Artist: The Nihilist Spasm Band feat. Joe McPhee

Songs: Homage to Greg Curnoe + The Sweetest Country This Side of Heaven

Recorded at The Garrison ("Wavelength 679"), September 17, 2015.

The Nihilist Spasm Band feat. Joe McPhee - Homage to Greg Curnoe

The Nihilist Spasm Band feat. Joe McPhee - The Sweetest Country This Side of Heaven

There's a lot that's conceptually amazing about the Nihilist Spasm Band. That it arose out of London, Ontario — generally known as a bastion of a certain sort of small-town southern Ontario conservatism — can be credibly explained as an aberration, reaction or mutation. That this conglomeration of non-musicians building their own instruments and throwing off the rules of tunefulness and musical structure began there in 1965 — long before "noise" or "DIY" were Musical conceptual categories — can probably be understood in the context of free jazz and Fluxus and some other avant-garde movements that the originators would have been familiar with. That such a project has been continuously maintained for fifty years, through deaths and retirements, obscurity and "cult success", is absolutely mind-boggling. Celebrating that half-century mark, the group went on a three-city mini-tour, including this Wavelength-sponsored night that brought together some younger purveyors of different noise strains to complement the headliners.

That the NSB's musical practice is now formalized within certain parameters isn't too much of a surprise, but they remain wonderful to behold on several levels. Time can never dim the thrill of hearing Bill Exley's basso profondo voice — all old-school, carefully-enunciated gravitas that brings to mind Lorne Greene — subverting received wisdom with his stentorian pronouncements. And there is, no doubt, the sheer thrill of seeing a group of elders up on stage, crunching, clanging, buzzing and bashing away — who wouldn't want to hope that this is what their own future could hold?

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