No-Neck Blues Band - Nine for Victor (Les Disques Victo CD)
Second in the "I Was There" edition of recordings issued by the Les Disques Victo label for FIMAV concerts I actually attended, the first being the Wolf Eyes & Anthony Braxton "Black Vomit" disc some time ago. I promise not to pick up the two other releases from the 2005 festival (Anthony Braxton & Fred Frith - amazing! Anthony Braxton Sextet - not my bag!) so as to keep the trips down memory lane to a bare minimum. But I couldn't resist the No-Neck Blues Band's "Nine for Victor" first and foremost because the show itself was downright incredible, certainly challenging the Wolf Eyes/Braxton and Braxton/Frith gigs for best set of the fest in my eyes. Secondly because of the badass cover, graced with a grody-looking photo of festival boss/humble host Michel Levasseur. Shit yeah, what's not to love?
I first played "Nine for Victor" when I was lying in bed watching TV one afternoon after work, so I was pretty much fading in and out the whole time. But through my sleepy-eyed semi-consciousness I noticed how dissimilar the recording was to the actual performance that took place at the Victo fest in May. And then of course I started telling myself, "maybe this is how it really was and you just remember it being totally different". Luckily a Serious Researcher like myself takes these things into account beforehand and I remembered just now actually that I had the bootleg of the No-Neck Blue Band show (but don't tell anyone, Victo security cops will probably still crack skulls two years after the fact) so I could do some fact-checking! Lo and behold I was bang on, the show itself was an entirely different affair. Well not entirely different because the music on "Nine" is definitely sourced from the gig, it just plays out completely out-of-sequence and chopped down (from 70-ish minutes to 45), not to mention chopped up - there were no real divisions in the performance but, as you might glean from the title, the concert is split into nine tracks. And, for the most part, it pales brutally in comparison to the show. I've tried listening to the album approaching it as an entirely different beast wholly independent of the show, but I still can't find much good to say about it (and it baffles me even more why'd they'd butcher it so). Much of the 45 minutes is dominated by pointless noodling that sounds flimsy regardless of the content: "Lady Vengeance" is a blurry mess bells, guitars and piano that does nothing to demonstrate the absolute magic that can occur when all seven members are on the same page, "Dosed Cremant" is a microtone strings-n-squelch filler and "Julius: Tainted by Ore" dubs in (at least I don't remember ever hearing them) guttural nonsensical vocals that only serve to disrupt the chiming siren-like ambience in the background. The best tracks are the first and the second-to-last: opening "The Cacao Grinder" combines woozy electronics, a harmonica and gentle cymbal coaxing to form a bright sheen under which Jason Meagher (if I've not got my No-Neckians mixed up, which I probably have)'s funky, insistant drumming risks moving mountains. The penultimate "Brain Soaked Hide" is an absolute tour de force of equal parts restraint and release, with the group building up a massive psych/blues stomp to ride into the sunset for the next ten minutes, helped along by sometimes-member Michiko giving her vocal chords a full on workout for the initial proceedings. It sounds like an impossible combination of Hawkwind, Parson Sound, the Boredoms and Zodiac Mountain and it would've pleased me wholly if they made the whole album sound exactly like it. Unfortunately the band gollow "Brain Soaked Hide" up with the unnecessary and mood-ruining "Tonsillar" a two-minute torrent of feedback that's more Japanoise than New Weird America.
If you've got the necessary means (as in a filesharing program), I recommend you save your money and download the entire unediting original No-Neck Victo performance rather than listen to this mutilated version of it. And while you've got that program open you might as well look for the two songs I recommended above because they're a couple of the best No-Neck "singles" I've ever heard. A few days back I discussed this album with a friend who went to the original show as well and he agreed that it was nothing at all like he recalled it to be, but then he reminded me of the "Collective Imaginings of Quantarenius, Cook & Co" album NNCK (ironically enough) launched at Victoriaville. It too was culled from a live performance but split into tracks and probably didn't sound a whole lot like what audience members might've remembered or expected to hear on the second go-around. If that's their M.O. then so be it, but all things considered I can't fathom why they would've chosen to disfigure such a transcendant set in exchange for the quick cuts presented here.