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Nihilist Spasm Band – Nothing is Forever

NSB

“To someone who’s never heard us,” ponders Art Pratten (“pratt-a-various”, water-pipe), “the short answer is that we’re an adult kindergarten rhythm band.”

The above is a quote taken from a 2012 interview with the Nihilist Spam Band, as conducted by Shane Scott-Travis for the music publication “Vivoscene”, and it more or less brilliantly sums up not just what the NSB has become after nearly a half-century of productivity, but what they’ve always been.  The project (and to be fair, standard “noise” in general) is something that I shouldn’t be able to tolerate as a musician and a traditionalist, as it exists to stare mockingly into the face of everything that I hold as true and beautiful in my life.  Toleration, however, isn’t strictly relative to enjoyment — it is also about understanding, and though I find the music on Nothing is Forever to be offensive in even its best moments, I can’t help but perceive a quaint youthfulness within the improvisational process that must have remained unchanged and unevolved since those days when the members of the project were building their first instruments — two decades before I took my first breath on this planet.  Therein lies their uniqueness:  everything — from the instruments to the compositions that are created through them — is hand-crafted without any interest whatsoever in the traditional view of music.  Let’s not go into the perseverance that it would take for these musicians to collaborate for so many years virtually every Monday night to any size-range of audience.

As they’ve stated before, however, my opinion is not only invalid, but unnecessary all-together as is the audience in those many live performances over the years.  The music and their fun remains unchanged without me.  With me, however, an interaction takes place not unlike that of passing molecules whom may be charged positively or negatively — the band has been known to feed off of energy and react accordingly through their art.  Thankfully, writing from the comfort from my own home provides my eardrums a fair bit of insulation from what may have been a resulting swell in volume and disharmonics.

Photograph from the late 1960's, courtesy of Vivoscene.

Photograph from the late 1960’s, courtesy of Vivoscene.

The tangible parts of the record are either vocal or best observed as suggestive imagery rather than musical quality.  While the opening track is marked with the declaration that “there is no solution”, the resulting frenzy of improvised and randomized percussion and miscellaneous instrumentation comes to life more as a stampede of disgruntled elephants than a solid composition which, by now, should be expected.  “You can do it if you Try” takes a normally positive phrase and turns it on its head, vehemently and sarcastically spitting disdain within modern social subjects including environmentalism and general human arrogance.  The resulting mood of the following musical abstraction is that of a free jazz personification of the hustle and bustle of urban life.  Unlike the other tracks, Side B and the title track open with no vocal introduction at all, and instead instantly condenses into an initially erratic track that either contains a couple of cleverly placed locked grooves that suddenly creates a structured industrial-esque churning of surprisingly heavy rhythmic pulsations, or this copy is simply damaged. Hopefully it’s the former, as both the placement and the track title make it a brilliant inclusion.  “Music is Fun” is unsurprisingly the most musical of the bunch, though by the very definition of improvisation, it wasn’t intentional.  The track contains more of the same — spirited free jazz with percussive undercurrents and little to no structure, but the melodies that take over the frontal area of the mix are enjoyable and don’t simply lend to the overwhelming chaos that ensues in the song’s predecessors.

I don’t have the heart in me, nor do I find it particularly ethical to “rate” this project based on the traditional merits of music, therefore there will not be a rating for this album.  that said, this release is more of interest to novelty seekers than music lovers, unless one simply wants the experience of listening to unburdened, unintentional and youthful chaos.  Either way, I can’t help but feel like it is the live situation that begs to be experienced with this project, not necessarily the improvised creations themselves.

Track List:

A1) No Solution
A2) You can do it if you Try
B1) Nothing is Forever
B2) Music is Fun

Rating: N/A due to the nature of the release.
Written by: Sage
Label: Wintage Records & Tapes (Location N/A) / WRT-99 / 12″ LP
Abstract / Experimental / Improvisation / Noise

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