The release of the Nels Cline Singers 2-disc Initiate, a two hour-and-fifteen minute behemoth of sound, calls to mind a similar effort of 30 years ago, entitled Sandinista! (Epic, 1980) by the influential punk band turned prophets, The Clash. Like Mick Jones and Joe Strummer's 3-LP project, Cline's vision is too big to be encapsulated into a single genre or sound-byte blurb.
The guitarist Nels Cline, now famous as 'the sound' behind the rock band Wilco, was a jazz and improvisational noise semi-god before MTV stardom. Like this release, his three prior Nels Cline Singer Cryptogramophone discs Instrumentals. (2002), The Giant Pin (2004), and Draw Breath (2007) all feature bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola.
The two discs are split between a studio and live recording with guest musicians sitting in on both sessions for a bit more seasoning. For Cline, the flavors he chooses appeal to many palates which he masters with his wizardry of guitar effects. The groove laden "Floored" (think electric Miles Davis) with its thick funk and the rocked out "Redline To Greenland" are both laced with odd and ear prickling effects. The Singers spare no effects on the nonrockers too. "Divining" builds from a mellow dream state into an intense ending. Cline trades electric for the acoustic guitar on "Grow Closer," giving Amendola's percussion center stage. The trio stacks the amicable with the unfriendly, sometimes dropping noise and thuds, like on "Scissor/ Saw," which just falls into the lap.
The 'Live' disc continues the multi-directional approach ending with Joe Zawinul's "Boogie Woogie Waltz," a 14-minute summation of all things Cline. He plies our ears with a history of the electric guitar, from John McLaughlin and Jimi Hendrix, to Thurston Moore. His monster guitar shredding in full effect thrills the live fans and exhausts the record, leaving nothing wanting.
CD1: Into It; Floored; Divining; You Noticed; Red Line to Greenland; Mercy (Supplication); Grow Closer; Scissor/Saw; B86 (Inkblot Nebula); King Queen; Zingiber; Mercy (Procession); Into It (You Turn). CD2: Forge; Fly Fly; Raze; And Now the Queen; Blues, Too; Thurston County; Sunken Song; Boogie Woogie Waltz.
Nels Cline: electric and acoustic guitars, effects, voice, megamouth, thingamagoop; Devin Hoff: contrabass, bass guitar; Scott Amendola: drum set, percussion, mbira, live electronics, loops, treatments; David Witham: electric piano (CD1#4,9) organ (CD1#10), Yuka Honda: synth (CD1#13); Greg Saunier: percussion (CD2#8); Satomi Matsuzaki: percussion (CD2#8); John Dieterich: percussion (CD2#8).
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