135

The Nels Cline Singers: The Giant Pin

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
The Nels Cline Singers: The Giant Pin Whatever your opinion of guitarist Nels Cline, his pointedly iconoclastic style leaves little room for argument. That's especially true with the Nels Cline Singers, now on their second release after the appropriately-named and like-minded Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone, 2002). Clearly literate with the improvised music tradition, Cline demands more. Pay attention, listen closely, and learn: in the fractured zone between punk, progressive rock, jazz, electronica, and neo-tribal futurism lie all sorts of loose ends just waiting to be tied together in unpredictable ways. Cline's specialty is exactly this.

You're likely to be thrown for a loop with the opening "Blues, Too" (dedicated to guitar icon Jim Hall), which stutters, swings (sort of), and ripples through three minutes of clean-toned abstraction. The Singers, a trio that also includes Devin Hoff (bass) and Scott Amendola (drums, EFX), can play it clean or dirty.

However, Cline seems to gravitate toward heavier, more bombastic statements, like the "Fly Fly" that follows. But the self-conscious interludes that interrupt the main thrust sometimes seem like ironic asides instead of integral parts of the statement. Attitude is such an important part of postmodern music, and there's a night and day difference between the group's regular blazing thrusts of power and the respites sprinkled in between. Part of it has to do with pacing, which is absolutely key with music of this potency, but the musicians seem to be stepping back now and then to inspect the havoc that they've wreaked.

Of course, not all quiet moments are like this. The beginning of "The Ballad of Devin Hoff" works a lyrical angle, reflectively plying conversation across the stage before the tune settles back onto a relatively noisy rock foundation. "Something About David H." takes its time exploring a dark, spacious zone inhabited by Amendola's various electronic effects and electric mbira, picking up momentum when Cline's guitar steps forward and again rocking hard about six minutes in. By then there's no stopping things. Anthemic, yes. Affected, no.

"He Still Carries A Torch For Her" and "Square King" are decidedly oriented toward the blocky, energetic song form of progressive rock, but with a psychedelic tinge. Scott Amendola, who drew attention years ago with his drumming alongside Charlie Hunter and more recently with his own Cry , knows how to pour on the juice, but he also cultivates a ritual tribalism.

Listeners who are curious what the Singers can do with more jazz-oriented material will find the inspired improv interplay of "Bright Moon" enlightening, especially as it picks up momentum over time. Referring to this piece in the liner notes—which are highly recommended—Cline speaks of joy, and indeed it stands out from the rest in its outright exuberance.

But The Giant Pin is not a walk in the park. It's serious music for serious people, meant to be played loud enough that your chest vibrates. If you aren't willing to give the Nels Cline Singers your full and undivided attention, turn it elsewhere.

Visit Nels Cline and Scott Amendola on the web.


Track Listing: 1. Blues Too 2. Fly Fly 3. He Still Carries A Torch For Her 4. The Ballad of Devin Hoff 5. The Friar 6. Something About David H. 7. Bright Moon 8. A Boy Needs A Door 9. Square Kind 10. Spell 11. Watch Over Us

Personnel: Nels Cline: Electric Guitar, Electronics; Devin Hoff: Bass; Scott Amendola: Drum, Percussion, Electronics.

Title: The Giant Pin | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Cryptogramophone


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Magnetic CD/LP/Track Review Magnetic
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 27, 2017
Read A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard
by Mark E. Gallo
Published: July 27, 2017
Read Someone Else CD/LP/Track Review Someone Else
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 27, 2017
Read Falling Forward CD/LP/Track Review Falling Forward
by James Nadal
Published: July 27, 2017
Read I Know Who I Am CD/LP/Track Review I Know Who I Am
by James Nadal
Published: July 26, 2017
Read "Thank You For Coming To Life" CD/LP/Track Review Thank You For Coming To Life
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 2, 2017
Read "Seasons 1-4 Live" CD/LP/Track Review Seasons 1-4 Live
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 6, 2017
Read "Early Americans" CD/LP/Track Review Early Americans
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 22, 2016
Read "Duet" CD/LP/Track Review Duet
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "Up and Coming" CD/LP/Track Review Up and Coming
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: January 29, 2017
Read "The Traveller's Tale" CD/LP/Track Review The Traveller's Tale
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 17, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.