Friday, February 27, 2009

Nels Cline - Coward (Cryptogramophone, 2009)

Experimental guitarist Nels Cline's latest album is a project that he had been planning and delaying for several years. Multiple guitars, electronics and many layers of music combine to make for an album that seems very much like a journey inside Cline's particular musical universe. "Prayer Wheel" has a mysterious and misty feel, like walking through an ancient forest, reminiscent of the musical soundscapes made by British guitarist James Blackshaw. "Thurston Country" pays tribute to Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore by upping the ante, adding electronics and building to a ferocious conclusion. There are several interludes of quieter, meditational music on the album, like "The Androgyne" which has has a gentler folky feel. "Divine Homegirl" and "Nomad's Home" channel Bill Frisell's mild country Americana. "Ron Poole's Gradual Ascent to Heaven", one of the central pieces of the album is a tribute to a friend and colleague of Cline's who was murdered in 2007. This mystical, meditative and slowly developing performance is long and full of deep feeling. "Onan Suite", the other central focus of the album builds into a forceful entry with the "Lord and Lady" movement and the occasionally scalding "Interruption." "Seedcaster" is extremely cool, with Cline developing a science fiction hip-hop guitar freak out, which is followed by "The Liberator" movement, sounding like a hip soundtrack to a thrilling movie car chase, cool and even a little funky. This was an enjoyable album, that grew on me gradually over time like a flower slowly opening to reveal its full glory. It's hard to categorize this album as jazz, rock or anything else, it falls into it's own unique cosmic landscape of sound paintings.
Coward -

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