The Nels Cline Singers: The Giant Pin

Franz A. Matzner By

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Pushing jazz into territory usually reserved for hardcore, ambient, and dark wave electronica, the Nels Cline Singers' latest release, The Giant Pin , employs a wide array of electronics, musical technique, and compositional audacity to produce a sonically varied, deadly experimental amalgam of genres and styles. Incorporating undulating waves of pure texture, metal-loud drum beats, and distortion-laden guitar—as well as minimalist, floating soundscapes—with traditional jazz vernacular and improvisational structures, the Nels Cline Singers have done what all of jazz's pantheon are honored for trying: they've stepped forward into the future of sound. Without a single word.

Heirs to the John Zorn-Mick Harris-fueled Painkiller legacy, the Nels Cline Singers display more than just the courage, vision, and sheer audacity to attempt such a project—and release it on a jazz label. They also possess the requisite musical skills necessary to make their experiment an unbridled success. More than a series of establishment challenging forays into the joy of rule-breaking, The Giant Pin accomplishes the rarest of all feats, irrespective of genre. It presents a spectrum of material that despite both its diversity and explorative nature remains thematically consistent and of unerring quality. Key to the album's beauty is group's willingness to expand the jazz vernacular by delving into musical—and thereby emotional—realms usually overlooked.

Selections like "He Still Carries A Torch For Her," an album highlight, prove how savvy the Nels Cline Singers are in their approach. Beginning with traditional improvisatory exchanges between guitar, bass, and drums, the piece slowly moves into increasingly electric and dissonant territory. As the dissonance thickens, the improvisations grow wilder and wilder, the textures denser, the tempo faster, until finally the piece crescendos into a thoroughly electronic series of sound blasts and bent noise, replete with the inhumanly frenetic beats of a drum machine. The tune then closes with a return to its opening classic jazz beginning in the form of a brief coda.

As a whole, The Giant Pin progresses in a similar fashion. Alternately offering beautifully performed acoustic jazz pieces, mixed-genre experiments, and straight, all out electronica-based orchestrations, The Giant Pin succeeds in expanding the conceptual boundaries of both electronica and jazz composition, while simultaneously acknowledging their common ground.

This is a phenomenal album of exceptional depth, successful in both conception and execution.

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


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