Friday, May 25, 2007

Nels Cline Singers– Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone, 2007)

The gag, of course, is that there are no vocalists. Guitarist Nels Cline, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola sing through their collective instruments. Cline is most well known for his avant-garde jazz and rock recordings and his unexpected but most welcome stint in the pop rock band Wilco. The Nels Cline Singers allow him to explore a number of different moods and textures in an improvised trio setting. The opening “Caved in Heart Blues” starts out in a spare, lyrical manner before building to an ominous climax and returning to the spare, haunted theme. With “Attempted” and especially the very lengthy and exploratory “Evening at Pops’” the group takes unfettered improvisational flight, interacting well with each other and splitting off for some solo and duo passages. “Attempted” builds to some really wild free jazz improvising – think Sonny Sharrock on some type of prog-rock bender, and you have the right idea. “Mixed Message” is a fascinating experimental collage of power trio with electronics, and has a lot of shifting dynamic movements within. I wonder how many Wilco fans will be able to enjoy this? It’s not all shredding and hell for leather improvising, however. “Confection” has a rock and roll feel with some very strong and fast drumming and an interesting break featuring bowed bass. “Angel of Angels” has a lyrical feel, mixing acoustic instruments with electric, touching on Bill Frisell-ish ground at times. “Recognize” parts one and two are purely acoustic and introspective, providing an interesting change of pace and variety to the music. “Squirrel of God” ends things on a cinematic note; the music starts with a shaded noir like feel and develops further using percussion and electronics to produce a cinematic improvisation. This is another very good effort from the Singers who make quality searching music for people with open ears. Fans of progressive jazz or rock and roll will find much to enjoy here.

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