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$™ Live Review N°2: Friendly Rich w/ Nihilist Spasm Band + Retired w/ {An} Eel @ Rivoli - °7/°4/19

Updated: Apr 27


As someone who's read about and listened to the Nihilist Spasm Band for a very long time, it is something truly special to finally witness them in their element. The only thing that could possibly make this more exciting is if Friendly Rich himself were to join them on stage... Well, we're in luck because this was a night of collaborative performance @ Rivoli featuring not only the aforementioned coupling, but the combo of punkjazz quartet Retired and vocal expressionist {AN} Eel as well! So, looks like we're in for something unique and weird...and noisy, to say the least.


The night opens with Retired feat. {AN} Eel. Now, I've been wanting to see the band since being introduced to their music by a friend and inviting them to join The Dream Kitchen in 2018. When I first heard their album Crimes Against Jazz (2016) I was instantly impacted by the group's deconstruction of jazz tradition. Straight away, from the genius caricatured cover art, to the sometimes seamy song titles ("3 Day Jazz Bender" earns a special place in my heart), the intent is clear and delivered with meandering precision. Heading onward the path tamped down by Ornette Coleman, all the way to the audio production, this thing sounds aged and feels like some lost gem from another era. Realized perfection!



Now, as much as I looove this album, jazz is meant to be appreciated in-person, and free jazz in particular is always best in a live context. Joined by experimental performer {AN} Eel whose interpretive vox and movements ebb and flow, his presence lends an element of further uncertainty to an inherently unpredictable ordeal. With sweeping hand motions to begin the set, I got the sense of a kind of personal ritual, putting himself in a loose state of being, channeling inner self, entering a sort of trance state. As the music propels the expression forward, the vocalizations become more intense and deranged. The man seems mad, at times, which is exactly the kind of accompaniment fitting for such intense and irregular music.



Alongside these thought provoking extraterrestrial jazz-scat-rantings, we are subjected to the delightful feeling of alienation brought on by barbed, swirling textures building and breaking down in real time. Of note, wiry guitar serves as punctuation to broken sentence fragments. During the mid-point of the set the group "pass the baton" as each member takes turns leading the improv. This creates some interesting results and dynamic interplay between the musicians. Culminating with {AN} Eel's frenzied jabbering as the group sputters in conjunction. For the last piece we are treated to a long-form drone putting the audience into a state of suspended animation. A lovely way to close the set and prepare the room for our feature act of the evening.



Friendly Rich (who also happens to be the DK's newest recruit!) in cooperation with the one and only Nihilist Spasm Band provide us with something very few would have the courage (or gall) to present to an audience, even within the world of avant garde. With their eclectic collection of strange DIY instruments, and everyday items like cooking pots and balloons, the band make noise like they were the ones who invented it. In fact, you might say they actually did invent noise; being the pioneers of "non-music", NSB has been driving audiences out venues and into the street since they began performing together 54 years ago!