Nels Cline Singers continues trend of innovative sounds on latest release
Published: Monday, April 19, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010 22:04
Despite the group's name, there are no singers in the Nels Cline Singers. At least in the sense of vocals with lyrics, which helps "Initiate" stand out with listeners.
Wordless vocals are just another means of expression for guitarist Nels Cline, whose trio consisting of Cline, guitar; Scott Amendola, percussion; and Devin Hoff, upright and electric bass, presents guitar-centered experimental jazz excellence on its new album, "Initiate."
The album begins with "Into It," a brief solo guitar piece comprised of layers of delay and reverb effects on Cline's signature Fender Jazzmaster guitar.
As a guitarist who can feel at home playing in the style of an '80s guitar shredder or an Albert King-like blues musician, Cline thrives on "Initiate" by surveying the capabilities of his playing, from acoustic finger-style folk music to layering the ensemble's other two instruments with harsh electronic and distorted guitar tones.
"Red Line to Greenland" is music Cline's listeners would expect to hear considering the composer's creative sway over the group.
Guitar swells, jet engine roars and ambulance sirens insulate the subtle sound, but a constant drum machine loops in the background until the full band enters, battling with Hoff's over-driven bass.
To those familiar with Cline's playing, it's apparent Cline can affect his listeners with a broad range of emotions through a broad range of mediums.
"Floored," for example, is wah-wah pedal-driven blues with Cline's fingerprints all over it, with guitar tapping and long, sustained notes outside of the piece's key.
"Driving," is a surprisingly calm, yet tonally unstable modal jazz journey explored via the droned textures of Hoff's bass lines and Cline's Wes Montgomery-esque guitar lines.
Hoff's bass lines on "Zingiber" step out of traditional upright bass territory by his bowing of the instrument instead of picking out the bass lines with his fingers.
This isn't jazz to play at a fine restaurant. This is free jazz on par with Freddie Hubbard and the stranger side of Keith Jarrett, suitable for play at a coffee shop or at home.
Unlike Wilco, the most popular of Cline's many projects, Cline holds the creative reigns with the Nels Cline Singers, pushing the group to the outer limits of effect driven noise and subdued, traditional jazz.
Pick this up if you're into instrumental music that won't induce sleep.