All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Extended Analysis

10

The Nels Cline Singers: The Nels Cline Singers: Macroscope

Matt Marshall By

Sign in to view read count
With the release of this album by The Nels Cline Singers, Detroit's Mack Avenue Records takes a bold leap into the outer fringes of jazz. Their impressive slate of artists already included the likes of Kenny Garrett, Sean Jones and Christian McBride, who are open to pushing jazz boundaries, but the label had no one who goes as far afield as guitarist Cline. In fact, it's probably best to think of Cline, whether leading the Singers or any of his other projects, as approaching jazz rather than moving outward from it (Cline, himself, has said he is not a jazz musician), plowing in from a sonic space where rock- centric guitar riffs mash with a heady garble of electronic noise, loops, dance rhythms, screeching metal lines and hummable melodies. The marvel always with listening to Cline is how well the highly textured barrage works as music—and not just, or even primarily, on an intellectual level—conjuring a head-bopping forward momentum that trains the pulse to keep swinging even through the strangest passages of electronic rattling.

For this, their fifth release, The Nels Cline Singers shuffle their core trio a bit and bring in a handful of guest musicians to expand the sonic mayhem. Cline and drummer Scott Amendola remain, but are joined here by bassist Trevor Dunn, who replaces the group's original bassist, Devin Hoff, plus keyboardist Yuka C. Honda, of Cibo Matto fame, percussionists Cyro Baptista and Josh Jones, and harpist Zeena Parkins.

Most of the tracks are kept to lengths that once would have been labeled "radio- friendly" (only three crack the six-minute mark with "Seven Zed Heaven" alone pushing beyond ten minutes), helping to keep the momentum up as the Singers move from wordless song to wordless song (scenes, in a highly visual music). The opening track, "Companion Piece," grows from a relaxed melody. The second, "Canales' Cabeza," tips off from powerful riffs in hard-bop fashion. Both shoot forward along increasingly urgent lines with the group's sound layering into one so big and enveloping it belies the trio format—it's a pattern (whether with hefty or more subtle crescendo) that repeats across the album.

The guests join in on "Respira," nicely fracturing the scape with metal, skin and electronic percussion. Cline's voice drones alongside ringing guitar chords or soars ethereally over them, channeling the aesthetics of Pat Metheny groups past and present. (This is the first time the Singers have threatened to live up to their name by shading a couple pieces with prominent vocal coloring: Cline's voice forms a leavening bridge to a whirring island of volcanic action on "Respira," then moans low alongside acoustic guitar lines on "Macroscopic," wading into a web of Amendola's electronic clatter. "Hairy Mother," an alarming tangle of prickly electric fuzz, twined by heavy-metal guitar lines, features a type of electronic screaming that truly amps the song's frayed, nightmare character.)

Since this is a Nels Cline album there are, of course, guitar solos of blistering beauty. But these moments are but part of an organic progression of an ever- roiling music, a highly reactive science experiment that might generate searing fuzz guitar from undulating beats ("Red Before Orange") or rise in a back-spinning psychedelic echo ("The Wedding Band") that replicates into an annihilating vortex of amplified noise.

The album closes with "Sascha's Book of Frogs," a rough-edged piece that takes considerable breaths between its moments of chaos, its bright and harried guitar, blasting drums and other percussive weirdness, plucked and bowed bass. The halting number has the feel of a music blowing the last toxins from its veins. But when it suddenly stops, bringing an abrupt, unresolved end to the album, it positions Macroscope as but a slice of a much larger, ongoing experiment. For if the album's title—and, indeed, the Large Hadron Collider artwork that graces the group's previous effort, Initiate (Cryptogramophone, 2010)—tells us anything, it's that the Nels Cline Singers have no intention of conducting themselves in small, confining ways.

Track Listing: Companion Piece; Canales’ Cabeza; Respira; Red Before Orange; The Wedding Band; Macroscopic; Climb Down; Seven Zed Heaven; Hairy Mother; Sascha’s Book of Frogs.

Personnel: Nels Cline: guitars, effects, voice, Quintronics Drum Buddy; Scott Amendola: drums, percussion, electronic treatments/loops, mbira; Trevor Dunn: basses, effects; Yuka C. Honda: electric piano, OP-1; Cyro Baptista: percussion universe; Josh Jones: congas, other percussion; Zeena Parkins: electric harp.

Title: The Nels Cline Singers: Macroscope | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Greatest Other People's Hits Extended Analysis
Greatest Other People's Hits
by Doug Collette
Published: September 9, 2018
Read Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967 Extended Analysis
Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967
by Doug Collette
Published: September 8, 2018
Read Naima/Live in Berlin Extended Analysis
Naima/Live in Berlin
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 30, 2018
Read Kaya 40 Extended Analysis
Kaya 40
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 25, 2018
Read Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis
Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: August 4, 2018
Read Wodgi Extended Analysis
Wodgi
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 4, 2018
Read "Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" Extended Analysis Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: August 4, 2018
Read "Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967" Extended Analysis Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967
by Doug Collette
Published: September 8, 2018
Read "Love, Gloom, Cash, Love" Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "In Memory of Lou Gare" Extended Analysis In Memory of Lou Gare
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 3, 2018
Read "Wodgi" Extended Analysis Wodgi
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 4, 2018
Read "Greatest Other People's Hits" Extended Analysis Greatest Other People's Hits
by Doug Collette
Published: September 9, 2018