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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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44.1 kHz Archive

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No-Neck Blues Band
5 Rue Christine

The legendary Harlem-based free improv collective, once John Fahey's favorite band and now an inspiration for free-folk experimentalists, are back with their first full-length album in three years, a tangled mix of dark-toned textures and crypto-mythologies. These strung-out rituals and slow-tempo'd meditations carve otherworldly landscapes out of mutated string saws, shaken percussion and electrically altered guitars, layering mood on anxious mood and stretching musical ideas into droning mantras. Drawing inspiration from gothic horror novelists like Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany and H.P. Lovecraft, Qvaris has the phosphorescent glow of an interesting nightmare — frightening, mysterious and somehow compelling.

The album begins with the mystic shuffle of "The Doon," the faraway tramp of drums giving shape to echoing string notes, plucked and bowed, and a funereal rattle of maracas. Inward-looking, almost claustrophobic, the cut implies communion of a nonverbal, elemental sort among musicians, perhaps creating, perhaps merely discovering its ritual layers and textures. It feels like a mindful meditation, one where the players allow the music to be what it is, to proceed, to flow, in a conscious but unmeddling sort of way. With "Live Your Myth in Grease," the pace quickens, with rhythms that dart and redouble, staccato high string riffs playing tag with lower guitar sounds, everything dancing like loose pebbles atop the vibrating skin of tribal drums. It is long at eight minutes, yet more sensual than the first track. It seems abstractly Middle Eastern, like a belly dancer painted in Cubist style. There is a howling, feedback-fueled breakdown with quivering electronic notes floating above like fever images — and an audible, though altered, voice. It is the first quasi-human sound you hear on the album. The album becomes even more unfathomable with "The Black Pope," a nightmarish miasma of organ wails or accordion wheezes, with muted bowing adding urgency. These are tortured, lost and spectral sounds without perceptible time signature or key, and they evoke haunted rooms and squeaking floorboards, with violins howling like spirits and fear rising in the density of sawed strings and vibrating organ.

There are four separate tracks that share the CD's "Qvaris Theme," starting with the cut so titled and running through "Qvaris Theme (Loplop Hearing Qvaris)," "Qvaris Theme (Wohihb)" and finishing with "Vaticon Blue (End of Theme)." These four linked compositions share an unearthly high, bowed melody, some sort of altered string sound I think, set against various combinations of jingling, pounding or shaken percussion. "Qvaris" seems to be a character in this suite of songs, and the name is close enough to the Latin quaeris to suggest a searcher of some sort. The sounds themselves suggest the deep silence of space, interrupted only by alien high tones that reverberate and overlap, and perhaps create a dialog between themselves.

The "Qvaris" songs are tantalizing, but ultimately unreadable. Far more accessible is "Boreal Gluts" with its urgent, spaghetti beat and slashing guitar figures, alongside the twitches and surreality of the earlier material. Later on, "Lugnagall" pulsates exuberantly on tom tom and shaken percussion rhythms. The faintest trace of jangling strings starts in the interstices, growing gradually stronger, along with bright organ tones and yelped vocals. The guitars are most blues-ish here, muted picking suggesting the elusive link between Fahey and NNCK.

Qvaris isn't an easy album, and you have to listen hard, to participate almost, to appreciate its drawn-out grooves and atmospherics. However, once drawn in, you can feel how hard the players are listening to one another, how their improvisations extend the emerging contours of each song, how the mood and texture take shape out of a shared consciousness. If you listen hard enough, you almost become part of that consciousness, and that's when Qvaris starts to speak most clearly to you.

by Jennifer Kelly

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