No-Neck Blues Band
o-Neck’s in the house. And, so they were: Tall, peculiar; offset by a spritish Asian woman engulfed by an ankle long coat; then a tandem of bookish men; leather jacketed street toughs, a feral looking beardo, his long red braid slithering down to the dimple of his chest. They were followed by their equipment: The silver half-mooned mixing bowls, the oddly shaped string instruments; shakers, cymbals, recorders, some keys, a saxophone; the drums: one a Chinese tom with tacked on hide heads; the other a tall Native American batter, with a beat that merged on the physiological, and fell in with animalistic, and naturalistic mimesis: Running Bear, Flying Crow, Babbling Creek. A traditional drum kit made the trip; ditto for a student cello, its brown face scarred and war painted.
The end of a long festival night was baptized with a few bubbles from a liter of Kentucky Tavern; no-smoking implorations were forgotten, and the errant spliff whispered slow smoke. When No-Neck took off, it was an addled ascension: Wings flapped through grotesquely leaden air; electronic indigestion wrapped around ears like strands of heavy velvet soaked in fish oil, pig urine. When the guitars collided with Nuss’ cello, the central rhythm took shape, like the frothy white scuzz that swims to the top of a stock pot piled high with bones, swirls of sound popped and folded into form, whisked out of the circle by the muscular thump of a drum.
Tonal vomit choked out of guitar headstocks, shrieks were speared and tossed—fish fished for and forgotten in retreat. When the sound settled, the shakers sizzled over the top, popping like pine needles, putting fire to bed with a fistful of coarse salt. This was a ceremony, a ritual. This must have been what it was like to see the Rolling Stones with Brian Jones, someone said. Mostly, no one really said anything. No one clapped or catcalled. There were shouts and smiles, and lots of shaking heads. Too much, too fast: Like a THC train chasing a dinner of lysergic microdots, this one was coming up and out—you were going to wear “it,” whether “it” looked like a cornflower blue bunny suit, or the cover art to Carcass’ Symphonies of Sickness.
No-Neck’s greatest achievement is their sonic density: They are so overwhelming, yet so reductionist. Wear the whole like a smock, or focus on a lone button: Look into its four pearly eyes, its needlepointed nose, the ivory hula-hoop that hurtles around its expanse. It’s a crest, a wheel, a shield. Break it up with a brick; give a match to the smock. Sprinkle the button’s sugary dust over the inflamed fabric and call it a day. Regardless of the recording, or the experience, any listener can do this at any time with No-Neck. If one must focus on Qvaris, one fixates on the smallest jig in the saw. To spin many yarns is to spin these records.
January 24, 1973: the Wall Street Journal spills the ink. “A Group of Scholars Gathers by Eggplant For. . . Yes. Well, Wow,” read the headline; perhaps the first time the hippy-dippy argot ambled into the Journal. The gist is mundane by today’s standards—lit enthusiasts huddle into a Lebanese restaurant to eat eggplant—and to discuss John Barth’s encyclopedic novel, The Sot-Weed Factor. Barth’s book held the herb in high, hard regard: Ingestion equaled boudoir boom-boom; sexual potency was a limbo bar raised to the rafters, not lowered into the sawdust floor. The book gang lubed up on jug wine and obligatory Whiskey Sours. Talk sputtered to life and then stood tall.
The tales come quickly; one involves a not-so-good Italian American Supper Club; one a friend of a friend’s ex-girlfriend’s stepmother; and—predictably—the Harvest of Timal Nadu. None intersect; only the insane or hyper-religious would find print in significance’s disappearing footsteps. Discovering relation to Qvaris in boozy book talk begins with the seed, the vine; the first flower, and climaxes in musty fashion, as fake snakes spring from their gag cans of mixed nuts: Bulky, awkward, awaiting fulfillment.
Aside from the music contained therein, as mere artifice Qvaris is also bulky, awkward, awaiting fulfillment. A happily erudite title apes the Druidic erector set; white gatefold sleeve is scentless, and unrefined cardboard. Title alone, Qvaris sounds like a Samuel Delany novel involving greasily unsettling sexuality, Wittgensteinian wordplay, Kurosawa cribs. Sounds are irritable signifiers; a horn is most always a honk; a moan never really miserable, a snare crack always trigger happy. Record reviews are no different. They crown their selves with a fez or bowler, but the bare truth is always underneath, except for when it’s hidden beneath a hare. Sounding always says something about the sound-maker; tight-knit tables of cigarette smelling folk can go on and on about the import; just keep the caffeine coming. To wit: No-Neck’s Qvaris sounds like it “means something,” stickily symbolic as one of The Golden Bough’s more purple passages, or as earthy and sweet as the smell of one’s dog, its dead head pulled softly out of the street, and later laid carefully into the grave.
Where the four-legged friend’s untimely demise is likely blamed on many things, there was no excuse for the strands of steel wool that stood out of the palpitating mass of yellowish cheese. An earthenware dish, near equatorial in its width, placed at fore and aft of straw bottomed “Chianti;” bullshit Xerox’d photos of Dean Martin, Tommy Lasorda, Don Rickles put behind plastic frames leered; the candlelight glinted off of the top of the dish as if it where a casserole of chrome filings. -You see, the cabbie told me, the waitress had to have seen them: It was like Eggplant Parm with a metal perm. It wasn’t just here-and-there; they were everywhere—steel curlicues writhing in low Q cheese, pools of fat percolating over the top. The whole thing audibly sighed when I cut into it: ‘O Sole Mio.
He ate it; they ate; smiled, chewed, swallowed; paid for it, and gasped and strained and cursed, shitting it out the following day, making pacts with one another in secret to never spill the story as they looked, from their individual vantage points, at the bone white bowls of their commodes swirled with sails of blood pink. Open Qvaris up; there’s a soft lump of purple sequins relaxed across the spine; a faux vegetable, ovoid, giving and regal. That’s the kind of shit that will get you dropped off on the threshold of a flophouse, where fires are burning in the dead heat of August; where plastic lighters crunched underfoot offer sound no different than the converse of the hunched, sweating oblivion.
The sigh the thing made sounded like breath—a cartoonish “whew,” replete with funny font and thought balloon blowing overhead. No-Neck’s thought balloons are always erased before the audience enters; that’s the whole point. Hearing eerie organ couplets one might say, “Messiaen.” Loosely lumbering big-band mold is always cleared from its wedge of cheese to read “Krautrock.” An adolescent with an in-the-know big brother might think, “Ummagumma”—or “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast.” But Qvaris, like the entirety of No-Neck’s output, is about finding the sound. Every single “song” has its moments where sound is found, brandished and “used.” Whacked like a windshield by birdshit, or struck together as chimes by an intermittent wind, musical instances are created—and often with ease; other times they are dug from the ground, wiped off, washed, and rubbed into shape.
Web locus The Serth gives visual document, swimming in Mr. Coley’s New England pool; squatting in the Hint, sneaking amateur video of cars making mayhem with street detritus. The eggplant is conspicuously front-and-center. Slipping through Coley’s pool; surfacing in the surf; lost in the geometric knot of a monolith; caressed by a beardo; brandished by the May Queen; pilfered from an irregular supermarket stack, eggplant obscenely assembled, engorged and dangerous, as on the mark as a double-penetration photo blown to the feet of the bonnet wearing church crowd.
The coffers attest to the power of the cryptic. The Pleistocene brings the AMM damage of the early 7”s: The Clearing; The Mouth of Crack, to the smashed crockery fluxist fistfuck of a series of sublime lathes: Cum/Thinner; Sweat/Ink; Piss/Oil; Vapor/Blood; to the bucolic bummer of Ken’s Electric Lake, No-Neck has continued to place their version of Gideon’s tome in every lonely motel drawer, a perseverant, yet wholly indifferent sentiment that no tangible monument could hope to possess. No need for defense: If there was an apologia to be offered it was long swept out into the Bronx River with all of the alligators that once claimed fetid city sewers as home. Talk, talk; there’s always talk.
She used to rub them on her teeth; it turned them gray, he said. They looked like metal—like that guy in the Roger Moore Bond films, sick, twisted, and mechanical. “She” was his ex’s stepmother. Something learned in Okinawa, and ostensibly hard to shake even in the West where makeup is culled from the mall, not picked or thumped on the produce aisle. The problem wasn’t that she rubbed eggplant flesh on her teeth; it was that her daughter had all of his No-Neck lathes. The happy couple had huddled together in the rosy afterglow of life-altering coitus, and besides the wall of books heavy on fin de siecle poesy, and desperate Russian existentialists, he’d left his records behind, too. The No-Neck lathes were worth a king’s ransom on e-Bay, and innumerable chic record hawking websites. A bottle of E.U. smuggled Absinthe shared the same echelon; that was a grog untouched, sneaked only in the throes of ecstatic consumption, waking to its passing with all the shame of a booty-call’s obligatory awkward breakfast.
The lathes were gone. The only time anyone’s ever seen the man more despondent was when he ate a sheep’s testicle thinking it a Japanese eggplant. The curry was all the same texture, he said; it was brown; we ate outside; it was night. Besides gaining admiration from the locals—“city boys” apparently don’t do gonads—a pleasurable side effect effected; loins went from flesh to metal in minutes; a gentleman never tells what transpired. There’s always Qvaris, he thought. And, so went the Harvest of Timal Nadu.
Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2005-12-09