Entartete Kunst Recordings


Principle Performances by

  • Jason Bellchamer / Jim O'Rourke

  • Borbetomagus

  • Jon Borges

  • Chenuax / Newman

  • Christian Kiefer

  • Alan Licht / Michael Snow

  • The Nihilist Spasm Band

  • Somania

  • Unclean Wiener


The second edition of the No Music Festival was held in London, Ontario (home of the Nihilist Spasm Band), from April 8 to 10, 1999. The three-day noise extravaganza was recorded and the label Entartete Kunst Recordings released a five-CD document of the event. That's over six hours of material, accompanied by a 16-page booklet filled with photos and comments from the organizers and some of the participating players, which included that year Ken Vandermark, Fred Van Hove, Borbetomagus, Alan Licht, Michael Snow, Jim O'Rourke, and many more, along with the Nihilist Spasm Band (Bill Exley, Art Pratten, John Boyle, John Clement, Hugh McIntyre, and Murray Favro), of course.

The No Music Festival was structured in two parts: evening showcases and late-night "interplays." Excerpts from the showcases are found on the first three discs. The premiere duo of Ken Vandermark (tenor saxophone) and free jazz legend Fred Van Hove (pipe organ) is a delight. Their 45-minute set is an occasion to hear both players in a very unusual setting, outside any reference to jazz. The organ had a very delicate sound that set the mood for a not too noisy and very enjoyable improv. Worth of note are the performances of Borbetomagus (this one will get rid of any wallpaper-scraping job), the pairing of guitarist Alan Licht and conceptual artist/pianist Michael Snow (heard here on Fender Rhodes), and the first ever performance of 14-year old Californian noise guitarist Jon Borges. The Nihilist Spasm Band delivers an average performance highlighted by guest appearances from Licht and Masaki Ohno (of Solmania).

Disc four and five collect excerpts from the "interplay" sessions, collective jams where musicians are invited to form small ad hoc groups. These events are often the occasion to hear musicians on unusual instruments (Michael Snow and Jim O'Rourke played drums, Fred Van Hove took out his accordion) and settings. Ken Vandermark proved very creative in non-jazz settings, as testifies his quartet with Licht, O'Rourke, and NSB's John Clement and his "three tenors" stunt with Borbetomagus' Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich. The same Dietrich got into an exciting wall of sound with Donald Miller and Ohno. O'Rourke on unamplified guitar and noisician Knurl played a very funny David vs. Goliath game with Miller switching Knurl's amplifier on and off. On a softer side, Vandermark and Van Hove came back for a surprising clarinet/accordion duet and the latter sat down at the piano for a duet with NSB's Art Pratten.

No99 is recorded proof of the festival's vitality. Sound quality is flawed at times, but it conveys a more accurate transcription of the event. Fans of Ken Vandermark need to hear his very unusual performance here. After all, the No Music Festival was about unexpected match-ups (the Vandermark/Van Hove, Licht/Snow, and Bellchamber/O'Rourke pairings were all world premieres).-- François Couture (from

What would the world be like if every town had its own group of aging reprobates, getting together Monday nights not to drink beer and talk football but to kick up an unholy racket on kazoos, guitars, and anything else they could blow into or electrify? Undoubtedly a more interesting place, and probably a better one. For more than 35 years, London, Ontario has been home to precisely such a group-The Nihilist Spasm Band.

In addition to their regular Monday sessions, the group has also been programming their own No Music Festival these past few years, gathering together the movers and shakers and minor tremblers in the US-Europe-Japan noise Improv underground. Over five CDs, No 99 documents the 1999 event, capturing the high profile-the host Nihilists, Ken Vandermark and Fred Van Hove, Borbetomagus, the ubiquitous Jim O'Rourke and Japan's Solmania doing their thing alongside a wilfully obscure selection of new faces, among them 14 year old guitar wunderkind Jon Borges, lowan avant banjoist Christian Kiefer and Toronto's 'hilarious' noise cabaret act Unclean Wiener. The big hitters get their own showcases, but it's at the afterhours Interplay sessions where the festival's unique egalitarian nature shines through. In a multitude of ad hoc groupings, everyone on the bill and their mothers get the chance to grab an instrument and kick up a racket. (You can even join in the fun at home, as the package includes a free kazoo.)

Any festival will have its equivalent of an interminable set by Ozric Tentacles-just about bearable as part of the experience, man, but a total downer when reproduced in your own Irving room-and No 99 is no exception. Still, there are plenty of gems. Borbetomagus lay down a set that feels like three boulders pulverising your head for an hour, with guitarist Donald Miller on top form. Vandermark (who also shares a mesmerising sax trio with Borbetomagus's Sauter and Dietrich) and Van Hove present a more considered weave of sax and pipe organ that steers clear of free jazz cliches while maintaining an elegant fire. Solmania's speaker-destroying homemade guitar is as ludicrously and wonderfully over-amped as ever.

Also of special note is Alan Licht's duo with Canadian avant garde film maker and musician Michael Snow, of New York Eye And Ear Control fame. A Jim O'Rourke for the Slayer generator, Licht's guitar sinuously chases Snow's Fender Rhodes through a multitude of cosmic echoes, transitioning smoothly from one dimension to another. And O'Rourke gives yet more evidence of his career shift into comedy in an acoustic guitar/noise generator duo with Knurl that raises the largest guffaws of the night. A wonderfully informal kind of festival. Every town should be so lucky.

Alan Cummings (from Wire Magazine)