x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The Nels Cline Singers: Initiate

There's plenty of Cline's intricate, jagged and effects-laden soloing - when it comes to making a guitar sound like a dial-up modem, he has no peer - but also organ-led Afrobeat on King Queen, reverberating folk psychedelia on Zingiber and jazzy vibraphone on You Noticed.

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AD201010704279972AR

Nels Cline is famous (semi-famous at any rate) as the lead guitarist in the alt-country band Wilco, but his CV encompasses punk rock, avant jazz and a variety of other more recondite genres, most of which get a look in on his new double album with the Nels Cline Singers. Naturally the band name is a joke: the singers are an instrumental three-piece with Devin Hoff on bass and Scott Amendola on percussion and electronics; additional sidemen were brought in as required, which was presumably quite often given the range of textures on display. There's plenty of Cline's intricate, jagged and effects-laden soloing - when it comes to making a guitar sound like a dial-up modem, he has no peer - but also organ-led Afrobeat on King Queen, reverberating folk psychedelia on Zingiber and jazzy vibraphone on You Noticed. The first disc comprises studio recordings, and here the multifariousness of Cline's interests is most evident. There are long stretches of post-rock pastiche, imitations of Slint or Godspeed You Black Emperor or even, strange to say, the mystical sludge-rock band Om. One track, the clattering, electronic Scissor/Saw, would pass unremarked on a Wolf Eyes record. Meanwhile Cline's jazz borrowings range from Cecil Taylorish free bop to enveloping Jon Hassell-style soundscapes. Such flexibility is impressive, but where's the real Cline? Perhaps that's him ripping it up live on disc two, where the singers forge a volatile jazz rock fusion, at once attentive and incantatory. Odd that an album called Initiate should take so long to get started.