The eight-word subtitle just about sums it up. Cline and his fellows don't take the often too reverential repertory approach with Hill's music, and instead offer up a programme that's as stimulating for its approach as it is for the ground it covers, and that ground is considerable, taking in as it does compositions recorded by Hill over nearly forty years. To hear what is effectively an overview of his music in this way is to be granted an insight into just how true to his own artistic vision he's been.
Cline has been incredibly astute in how he's put this band together. Andrea Parkins' accordion is the nearest thing to a keyboard instrument here, and on the likes of "No Doubt/11/8/Dance With Death," her work acts like the catalyst around which the other musicians coalesce. On the same piece they also evoke the stasis of the Belgian band Univers Zero, a comparison that until now was nothing if not unlikely.
With the exception of the guitar-clarinet duo with Ben Goldberg on "McNeil Island/Pumpkin," Cline is very much a team player, and his astute use of effects (along with Parkins) lends the music an unworldly air, as on the opening of "Compulsion."
An abiding impression is that this is very much a collective endeavour. Having said this, it's the ingredients that the individuals bring to the collective stew that make it so rich. Bobby Bradford's cornet evokes no spirit other than his own, and is by turns both plangent and spooked, as if the band is summoning up spirits of some order apart from the purely musical on "No Doubt...."
So all in all this might be an antidote to repertory. It's surely true to say that much of this programme brings to light a strand inherent in Hill's music that he himself has only hinted at on record in the past, and for that alone this set deserves the highest praise. Neither reverent nor insultingly irreverent, this is demanding music to be sure, and large ears are essential to appreciate it.
Personnel: Bobby Bradford: cornet; Ben Goldberg: clarinets; Andrea Parkins: accordion, effects; Devin
Hoff: bass; Scott Amendola: drums, percussion; Nels Cline: guitar, effects; Alex Cline: