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Nihilist Spasm Band, Jerusalem in My Heart + Karl Lemieux - June 16/07 at Sala Rossa

Posted by Cat / June 17, 2007

20070617_NSB-Sala-1.jpgI knew it would be a show like no other when I first stuck my head in the hall of Sala Rossa last night. On the floor in front of the stage, an industrial faerie-ring of drums, keyboards, and laptop computers glowed beneath Sala's chandeliers. I was lucky enough to bump into Steve Guimond, Sala's head honcho and music guru, who informed me that we were in for a real treat. Jerusalem in My Heart, fronted by project leader Radwan Moumneh and sometimes consisting of Radwan and Radwan alone, was going to be a full-on eight-piece powertrip-of-a-soundscape tonight. "They sounded amazing in soundcheck. This is gonna be a great show," assured Steve.

And if the reassurances of M. Guimond were not enough, the imposing array of 16mm film projectors, balanced on top of a stack of tables at the back of the hall, further implied that this would be a very different sort of show. A very Suoni sort of show....

20070617_Virgin-Noh-C-G.jpgThe evening opened with a performance art-music-video-spokenword-etc piece by (or consisting of?) Virigin Noh C G Jail Holding Free Movie. It was essentially a condensed concert-cum-story-telling, all performed under the pretence of an on-the-spot and de-la-moment video creation. But my mind wasn't quite into the performance. I was distracted. Perhaps it was the pungent lingering sweatiness of the crowd which had not yet been wicked away by the air-con. Perhaps it was the incessant snuffling of the guy standing behind me. Or perhaps it was the fact that I just couldn't get that refrain from Tom Waits' "What's He Building?" (Mule Variations, 1999) out of my head: "What's he building in there? What the hell is he building in there? ...He's hiding something from the rest of us. He's all to himself."

But the distractions (both internal and external) didn't stand a chance once Jerusalem in My Heart and accompanying film projections engulfed the space. Karl Lemieux's 16mm projections, an eerie-and-ethereal visual curtain of grainy, overexposed, black-and-white images of groups of men rhythmically flickered across the screen. Young men, old men, some Muslim, maybe all of them Muslim. Some looking upwards, some looking at the camera. A bus pulls across the screen. Men on the bus. Are they going to the oil fields? Are they going to a mosque? We don't know. They are just there, in groups, always, and again and again across the screen they flicker.

20070617_Jerusalem-2.jpgThen a small, silhouetted group of men - tiny and pure shadow - appears in the bottom corner of the frame, of every frame, as the film itself is twisted and burned and run forwards and backwards through the projector. Over all of this, the haunting tremors and delays of Jerusalem in My Heart slowly build and swell and engulf. Radwan sings in Arabic - strident, purposeful tones with lots of delay thrown on top of moaning strings and droning, undulating keyboards. The drumming, at first barely audible, grows louder and louder, as if it were marching determinedly towards the crowd. It thrums, throbs, never ceases.

The musicians themselves are like a group of these unidentified figures in the film. Black shadows against the screen, the effect is one of a three-dimensional video performance. A profound aural-visual depth-of-field is achieved; the pounding drums approach and then the whole experience goes wailing and fading off into the night. Radwan's sets are often just one 10-15 minute song and it's true, you couldn't imagine this performance breaking into one number after another. It's too bad that Jerusalem in My Heart don't perform more often.

And now for the Free Jazz portion of this review:

London, Ontario's Nihilist Spasm Band. Spastic Nihilists with grey hairs, white hairs, Souls of Lions - here them ROAR! No instruments, please, I insist, we'll bring our own, we'll MAKE our own, we'll PLAY our own in OUR OWN WAY. Free to DO as WE please, WHEN we please but only if it pleases YOU does it please you?

"I didn't crawl to the top of the food chain to eat plants. I am a meat-eater! Baby seals are scrumptious, whale is wonderful, scurvy is preferred. To death, plant consumption!"

Clang, clang, clang, whinge, whine, whinny, boom, boom, boom.

Make love to America. "Her sweet missiles". Triumph! Defeat! No, never! Strident voices, I'm not dead yet, not DEAD, not YET!

Buzz, buzz, kazoo, ka-buzz, bellow, bellow, CLANG! hummmmmmmmm

20070617_NSB-Sala-2.jpgAnd now Clement will play guitar. And now Boyle will play thumb piano. We played this song here last year. We will play it now. We will play it again next year. We will play it WHEN we please but only if it pleases YOU does it please you?

The man with the curly hair, glasses, trucker hat, Adidas red running shorts (run! run!), these shorts are short shorts with white stripes (White Stripes!) and your t-shirt is Iron Maiden-made, (1988 Seventh Son tour, I beleive). I will indeed run from you, spazziest audience member I have seen all night.

Or is it YOU I should run from? You with your skeleton trying to escape your fleshy bounds. A man so skinny his vertebrae were crawling out his back and trying stab him in the neck. A man so crawly, his pants are barely clinging to his frame (he has no BUM!) and he is jiggling, jiggling - STOP JIGGLING!

A woman is covered, covered, ENFOLDED IN STRIPES! Black-and-white zig-zagz, zebra stripes, houndstooth - I will bay like a hound! - this test pattern fashion is testing my nerves. My NERVES! they are shot. This cursed, striped woman is moving and buzzing and OW! My EYES! OW! My EARS! OW! My head-and-shoulders, knees and toes.

The NSB, they are crazy-fun and kudos to them! Long live the NSB! NSB, you are NOT for me!



Sara / June 19, 2007 at 10:06 am
was krista there? those NSB dudes LOVE her.
cat / June 19, 2007 at 02:47 pm
She WAS there but didn't stay for their whole set. Guess they were even too spazzy for Lederhosen Lucil!
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