The No Neck Blues Band’s 1998 improvisation in a forest in Canada has been leveled for re-release on CD. Over the course of two discs the few inevitable moments of dullness are obscured by glorious passages of spiraling rhythm, spaced hypnotics and trance grooves. Woods evoke a primal sense of refuge and sanctuary which the band conveys very well. If some sections are as arid as James Chance’s dead funk, overall this is a fluid orgiastic masterpiece of free-jazz and folk-drone that is flecked with raga and juju. NNCK consistently goes beyond noise and mess with an astoundingly musical improvisation that is miles from the average drum circle or tiresome jam band.
Those who approach this music with the same instinct and timing they would use when leaping onto a moving merry-go-round will enjoy the cosmic ride. I was reminded, by the subterranean clangs and slippery sense of motion, of Hendrix’s “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)”. Anyone who has read Peter Ackroyd’s Albion may feel that Live at Ken’s Electric Lake belongs with a body of work (inspired by trees) that includes such artists as Hardy, Wordsworth, Constable, Gainsborough, and various unknown carvers of runes. Certainly the album confirms that the new and the old are inexorably linked and worthwhile artistic innovation always contains traces of the ancient.