Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nels Cline - Dirty Baby (Cryptogramophone, 2010)

Guitarist Nels Cline is a fearless sonic explorer spanning genres from jazz to rock 'n' roll and beyond. His latest project has a fascinating concept: he was asked to create music to accompany the artwork of Los Angeles based artist Ed Ruscha. This is not a completely new idea for Cline who released a fascinating DVD earlier this year called Stained Radiance where he improvised in real time with painter Norton Wisdom. This musical interpretation of Rusha's work is divided over two CD's, the first being a long form composition split up into individual songs. Cline gives the composition an atmospheric and cinematic flair, developing from wistful and haunting strummed guitar and wheezy harmonica to a fascinating conclusion of guitar with electronics and drums that moves into a grinding, dirty funk feel using effects and feedback to move to a powerful conclusion. The second disc is a series of short vignettes that develop along the lines of the aesthetic that John Zorn used in his Naked City project: short, powerful blasts of music developing a noir/crime storyline based on Ruscha's unique artwork. Highlights from this disc include "No Mercy" which has great bluesy guitar over mid-tempo drums. "You Are a Dead Man" develops abstract guitar skronk for a genuinely unsettling effect and "Be Cautious Else We Be Bangin' On You" develops free jazz horns and pounding drums before switching dynamically to spacious marimba and bass. "I Heard You Moved to Pahrump, Nevada - You Cannot Escape" builds on acoustic guitar and fiddle to a dusty western feel, while "You Talk, You Get Killed" incorporates wah-wah trumpet and a wicked beat to move the story along. This was a fascinating combination of music and artwork that is unique in the way that the music interprets and reflects the physical art, while enhancing its meaning. Fans of forward leaning music should definitely check this out it is a daring and successful undertaking. Dirty Baby - amazon.com

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