Home » Jazz Articles » Nels Cline: Coward

414
Album Review

Nels Cline: Coward

By

Sign in to view read count
Nels Cline: Coward
Since being recruited by Wilco in 2004, guitarist Nels Cline has enjoyed a level of notoriety previously unimaginable for an avant-garde instrumentalist. Cline's career actually dates back to the late seventies, when seminal efforts with his twin brother percussionist Alex Cline, multi-instrumentalist Vinny Golia and bassist Eric von Essen cemented his reputation as a figurehead of the West Coast underground creative music scene.

Traversing multiple scenes, he has enjoyed a diverse career as a sideman to fellow iconoclasts like Carla Bozulich, Thurston Moore and Mike Watt. Entirely deserving of the title "Guitar God" as bestowed upon him by Rolling Stone Magazine, his interests and influences are as varied and boundless as his imagination. Nowhere is his eclectic sensibility more apparent than on Coward, his first solo outing.

A solo guitar record in name only, Cline overdubs a number of exotic instruments alongside his trusty six string, from zithers and autoharps to Korg synths and drum machines. Weaving an intricate web of cantilevered loops into a subtle, shimmering mosaic, the majority of the session is austere and contemplative. There are brief moments of abstruse pointillism and ecstatic release, but for the most part the mood is serene, laced with lush interludes of breathtaking splendor and hallucinatory psychedelia.

Trading dramatic pyrotechnics for graceful lyricism, Cline reveals his debt to such introspective acoustic stylists as John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Ralph Towner, plying prismatic acoustic arpeggios augmented by a variety of understated electronic refrains, recalling John Abercrombie, John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny at their most reflective.

The album's conceptual centerpiece, "Rod Poole's Gradual Ascent to Heaven," is a homage to the late microtonal guitarist, a close friend of Cline's, who was murdered in 2007. Languorously ascending to a heartbreaking finale, this hypnotic raga encapsulates the delicate sophistication of Poole's work in the record's most touching performance.

Other tunes employ similar strategies to different ends. On "Thurston Country" (for Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth), Cline enthusiastically hammers away on a series of oblique overtones that invoke the legendary band, accented by a yearning chorus that would make Radiohead proud.

Cline's limitless creativity offers a range of expression, from the dour drone of the opening "Epiphyllum" to the opulent minimal refrains of the ethereal closer "Cymbidium." The episodic "ONAN Suite" veers from the sublime to the profane, modulating from evocative psychedelic textures and kaleidoscopic colors to crass metallic textures and pedestrian breakbeats.

Coward is a brave, beautiful and endlessly revealing album. Far more daring than the average solo guitar record, this is an expansive journey into the mind of one of our most gifted and creative artists.

Track Listing

Epiphyllum; Prayer Wheel; Thurston County; The Androgyne; Rod Poole's Gradual Ascent to Heaven; The Divine Homegirl; X Change(s); The Nomad's Home; ONAN Suite: I. Amniotica, II. Lord & Lady, III. Dreams in the Mirror; IV. Interruption (Onan's Psychedelic Breakdown), V. Seedcaster, VI. The Liberator; Cymbidium.

Personnel

Nels Cline: electric and acoustic 6- and 12-string guitars (steel string and otherwise, prepared and otherwise), Srvti boxes, loops, banjo uke, tenor ukulele, zither, fretless cigar box guitar, Turkish 12-string; dobro, 6-string bass, megamouth, electric autoharp, Quintronics drum buddy, Kaossilator effects.

Album information

Title: Coward | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Cryptogramophone


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment about this album

Tags

More

The Way of the Groove
Ben Patterson
Incorporated
Skopje Jazz Inc.
Times Like These
Nica Carrington

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.