Nels Cline Singers’ Initiate

Nels Cline Singers
Cryptogrammophone 2xCD

Guitarist Nels Cline is perhaps best known currently for his work with the folk-rock band Wilco, but he’s had a long career as an avant-jazz instrumentalist. His Nels Cline Singers is a tongue-in-cheek moniker. And while they may not sing, the power trio – Cline is joined by bassist Devin Hoff and Scott Amendola – certainly know how to jam. On Initiate, NCS’s fourth recorded outing, they present a disc of studio recordings and a disc of live cuts.

Cline elicits a wide array of sounds from his axe in a flurry of furious soloing on “Floored:” whammy-bar histrionics, bullet-fast tapping, and a mean imitation of a blues harp! On “Boogie Woogie Waltz,” Cline’s pacing is more deliberate but the palette is no less varied, nor the climax any less potent.

But the group doesn’t limit itself to its power trio instrumentation. Hoff plays double bass as well as electric, and Amendola incorporates percussion from a wide range of ethnicities into his kit. “Divining” features mbira: African thumb piano. On “King Queen,” a less organic element makes an appearance; a synth-loop accompanies Cline’s Santana-esque solos.

NCS is capable of fetching delicacy too. Their diaphanous reading of Carla Bley’s “And Now the Queen,” is particularly finely wrought. But listeners will probably remember them best at full tilt, on a raucous tune such as Amendola’s “Scissor/Saw” or Cline’s avant-rock (Sonic Youth-inspired?) “Thurston County.”

Courtesy of our friends at RCRDLBL, download “Floored” from Initiate below.

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