Monday, March 15, 2010

Nels Cline Singers - Initiate (Cryptogramophone, 2010)

Guitarist Nels Cline is one of the most interesting and innovating musicians on the scene today. Not only does he add much needed guitar muscle to the rock band Wilco, but he also is a vibrant and productive member of the progressive jazz scene on the west coast. This album has Cline with fellow "Singers" bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola in both a studio and live setting on two discs. There is an interesting dynamic flow to both settings where the group (and special guests on the live disc) move from fast paced, high octane burning improvisations like the aptly titled free jazz blowout "Floored," which is a fascinating and thrilling journey, and "Fly Fly" which builds to uptempo guitar overdrive, concluding in an Armageddon like finish, the likes of which haven't been heard since Miles Davis's epic masterpiece Dark Magus. "King Queen" is a trip all its own, sounding like disco from another galaxy, featuring massive funky bass and guitar channeling the slinky vibe of Sun Ra's late 70's records like Lanquidity. It's not all shredding blowouts though, the band plays very well at slower and more abstract tempos, even dedicating one of the live pieces to the great jazz guitarist Jim Hall. "Divining" takes a haunting vibe and moves Cline to construct a smearing abstract solo, more like a painter than a musician. "b86 (Inkblot Nebula)" takes us into deep space as well with the band using haunting drones to create a dreamy and spaced out soundscape. This was a very well done release showing the power of Cline and his colleagues in both a live and studio setting. The group has a huge range and a vision that incorporates not only jazz and rock, but a whole range of experimental music. The cover image of the Large Hadron Collider was well chosen, as this group is using power and dynamism to explore the fringes of the musical universe. Initiate -

Send comments to Tim.