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Nels Cline: Destroy All Nels Cline

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As you might guess from the title, nihilism reigns supreme on Destroy All Nels Cline. Guitarist Nels Cline has made a personal mission out of exploring the full range of improvised music: his career is dotted with explorations of noise, rock, free jazz, and straight-ahead swinging jazz, not to mention all the points in between. When Cline takes the helm on Destroy, he brings this worldly experience to fruition in unusual and surprisingly visionary ways. But never one to set himself on a pedestal, the guitarist arranges the music in a series of clustered explosions of sound. In the same way a Branca symphony might build to climax, Cline's compositions resonate and feed back until they erupt in a fury of dark energy. Then it's back to quiet exploration and rejuvenation until the next episode.

In order to achieve the desired density and texture, Cline recruited four other guitarists to join him for this session. (That's on top of Alex Cline's versatile drum work and occasional contributions from harpist Zeena Parkins and producer Wayne Peet.) The group sound relies heavily upon collective resonance, though individual players have plenty of opportunities to step out into solo territory. On "Chicagoan," the bass and drums lay down a propulsive polyrhythmic rock foundation. The first climax builds from a stormy cloud of guitar energy. Subsequent distorted solos appear with waves of angular, dysharmonic sound, only to shoot their way skyward and erupt like fireworks.

Other tunes on Destroy All Nels Cline spend more time pursuing and developing thematic material. "The Ringing Hand" cruises like a prog-rock anthem, modulating and building upon a soaring theme. "As In Life" offers striking dynamic contrast between quiet, dark rumbles and jazzy melodicism—only to follow up by unleashing a raging beast of noise.

Take it or leave it. Destroy All Nels Cline offers surprisingly effective sonic therapy for the open-minded—and probably only a bad headache for the rest. You'll have to decide if it's going to work for you. This pair of ears gives it two thumbs up.


Track Listing: Spider Wisdom; Chicagoan; The Ringing Hand; Talk of a Chocolate Bed; After Armenia; Progression; As In Life (for Horace Tapscott); Friends of Snowman; Martyr.

Personnel: Woodward Lee Aplanalp: electric guitar; Carla Bozulich: electric guitar, sampling keyboard; Alex Cline: drums, percussion; Nels Cline: electric guitars; Bob Mair: electric bass guitar, electric guitar; G.E. Stinson: electric guitars; Zeena Parkins: electric harp; Wayne Peet: d6 clarinet, fake mellotron.

Title: Destroy All Nels Cline | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide

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