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.

RCRDLBL features Janelle Monae remix

Musical recommendations come in all shapes and sizes. Lately, many of them are arriving in 140 characters of less via Twitter. Steve Smith (@nightafternight) was the first person to recommend Janelle Monae to me and boy, am I glad he did!

Courtesy of our friends at RCRDLBL, here’s the Organized Noize remix of “Tightrope.” Janelle Monae’s soulful vocals are combined with skittering backbeats and thrumming bass, creating an exciting remix.

Casiokids’ Debut US LP

Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar
Polyvinyl CD

We’re experiencing one of the nastiest heat waves on record here in the Northeastern United States. Unaccustomed to relentless temps above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, folks are grasping at anything to keep cool. One newspaper article I saw suggested that ‘thinking cool’ simply must be part of the equation if one is going to weather this heat wave with any sort grace. In that spirit, I’ve been casting about for music that makes me think of cooler climes. Happily, there’s a great deal of terrific Scandinavian pop that’s fueling my wishful dreaming.

A prime example is Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar (rough paraphrase – the local bar has terrific ambiance), the US Debut CD of Norwegian electro-pop collective Casiokids. It’s touted as the first Norwegian language pop release in the States. And, while apart from a few Nibelung names, my Norwegian is virtually nonexistent, I can attest that there are no musical language barriers here.

As their moniker indicates, Casiokids happily channel eighties era synth pop signatures. But they mold these into a disparate soundscape, that encompasses both dance pop and more avant electronica: often simultaneously! The results are apt to capture both one’s intellect and their choreographic impulses. I’d dance too – if only it weren’t so darn hot!

Casiokids have been championed by a number of indie stalwarts; chief among these advocates are their label mates Of Montreal. One can see why they’re excited by the catchy yet substantial fare. Indeed, several tracks from Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar have inspired remixes. “Fot i Hose” has been the recepient of particularly fruitful attentions. Courtesy of our friends at RCRDLBL, check out the song below.

Casiokids Tour Dates:
Wed 8/18 – San Francisco, CA – Cafe Du Nord
Thu 8/19 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
Fri 8/20 – Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
Sat 8/21 – Vancouver, BC – Media Club
Tue 8/24 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry
Wed 8/25 – Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern
Thu 8/26 – Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
Fri 8/27 – Toronto, ON – Supermarket
Sat 8/28 – Brooklyn, NY – Glasslands
Sun 8/29 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
Mon 8/30 – Washington, DC – DC9
Fri 10/8 – Los Angeles, CA – Spaceland