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This meeting of three free-minded musicians promises a lot and delivers much more. Los Angeles-based guitarist Nels Cline is one of the most versatile players aroundas the new lead guitarist for the alt-country-rock band Wilco; as a collaborator with such diverse improvisers as reedman Vinny Golia, electric bassist Devin Sarno, and Sonic Youth guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo; as a sideman for vocalists such as Rickie Lee Jones and his partner Carla Bozulich; and as a leader of his own outfits, such as the Nels Cline Singers. Seattle-based underground alto saxophonist and painter Wally Shoup has been honing his playing for the last three decades, though his discography is much slimmer than Cline's. The young New England-based drummer Chris Corsano is mainly known through his close cooperation with saxophonist Paul Flaherty in recent years.
The three musicians have cooperated briefly in the past. Cline and Corsano performed on the vinyl-only Graduation (free103point9, 2004), and Shoup performed on a live date with Corsano (Live at Tonic, Leo, 2003), but it seems like they have been playing together for years. Hopefully this inaugural release may be the first of a series.
The brutal short opening track, "Lake of Fire Memories," sets the the tone for this encounter. Shoup shrieks over Cline's skronky guitar before the thundering drums of Corsano erupt. The 28-minute "Immolation/Immersion" is a rapid sequence of constructed and deconstructed textures, from the jagged, dense clusters of the opening movement to the extended free-form soundscapes of the middle movement. Shoup's angular, bluesy lines take off as Cline begins to use his effects-laden guitar to turn the middle movement toward abstraction, while Corsano colors these spacious soundscapes with his cymbals. Soon the lurking guitar of Cline resumes its edgy assault, accompanied by Corsano's rolling drumming and Shoup's wailings to the coda.
"Minus Mint" is a gentler piece. Shoup opts for a warmer, softer tone, while Cline and Corsano subtly punctuate his playing. "Beard of Pine" begins as an extension of the slower "Minus Mint," but it soon cooks to a bubbling mayhem. The concluding track, "Ghost Bell Canto," is another abstract piece that proves that these players can do more than just aim full frontal assaultsthey are also at their best when they focus on nuanced, subtle sonic passages.