Nels Cline

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Silencer , 6/10
Ground , 6/10
Chest , 7/10
Sad , 6/10
Ebbie Flowers , 6/10
The Inkling , 7.5/10
Interstellar Space Revisited , 5/10
Destroy All Nels Cline , 7/10
L. Stinkbug: The Allure Of Roadside Curios , 6/10
Instrumentals , 7/10
The Giant Pin (2004), 6.5/10
Draw Breath (2007), 6.5/10
Coward (2009), 6.5/10
Initiate (2010), 6/10
Dirty Baby (2010) , 6/10
Celestial Septet (2010), 6.5/10

Los Angeles-based guitarist Nels Cline formed a trio to bridge rock and jazz in a fashion similar to what done by Bill Frisell on albums such as Chest (1996), but it was The Inkling (may 1999), recorded by a quartet (with Zena Parkins on harp), that showed how to redefine fusion in the age of post-rock.
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Nels Cline (Los Angeles, 1956) e` venuto alla ribalta della scena rock quando (1997) si e` unito ai Geraldine Fibbers, ma era attivo da anni nel mondo dell'avanguardia jazz (undici anni nel Quartet Music, collaborazioni con Vinny Golia, Charlie Haden e Julius Hemphill). Il suo primo disco fu Elegies (september 1980 - 9 Winds, 1980), duetti con il bassista Eric Von Essen.

The Quartet Music (featuring his brother Alex Cline on percussion) released Quartet Music (march 1980 - 9 Winds, 1981), Ocean Park (january 1984), Window On The Lake (september 1986 - 9 Winds, 1986), Summer Night (august 1988 - Delos, 1989). Released under his own name,Angelica (august 1987 - Enja, 1988) featured saxophonist Tim Berne, Von Essen, drummer Alex Cline and trumpeter Stacey Rowles. Cline also played in the band Bloc, documented on In The Free Zone (A&M, 1991).

Il Nels Cline Trio nacque a Los Angeles nel 1990. Silencer (december 1990 - Enja, 1992) presenta un sound schizofrenico, a meta` strada fra la Jimi Hendrix Experience, l'End of The Game di Peter Green, gli esperimenti chitarristici di Bill Frisell e il jazz-rock di Sonny Sharrock e John Scofield. Lapsing e Silencer, soprattutto, mettono in mostro una nevrosi che e` piu` rock che jazz.

Cline si conquista la fama soprattutto con una serie di singoli altamente sperimentali, fra cui Lady Speed Stick/ Rumpus Room/ Showbiz Casualty (Forced Exposure, 1992) e Beardism/ WDTCH/ The Rite (Father Yod, 1993), al quale collabora Mike Watt (che Cline a sua volta accompagnera` sui suoi dischi solisti).

Ground (november 1993 - Krown Pocket, 1995), registrato dal vivo, e` un disco di transizione, in cui Cline sembra incerto se proporsi come il John McLaughlin del rock o il Thurston Moore del jazz. Ne risulta una raccolta eclettica che spazia dall'hard-rock di Beer Bottle Collection alla ballad Divine Homegirl. Cline vi sfoga soprattutto il suo amore per il rock alternativo, per complessi alternativi come Polvo e Sonic Youth.

Chest (june 1993 - Little Brother, 1996) del Trio e` forse il suo primo disco davvero maturo. Cline ha trovato una voce davvero personale. E` il disco di un chitarrista jazz, ma sembra il disco (senza parole) di un cantautore alla Smog o Magnetic Fields.

Dopo aver collaborato anche con Thurston Moore su Pillow Wand: (december 1996), Wayne Kramer e innumerevoli jazzisti, Cline registra il nuovo disco del suo Trio, Sad (july 1997 - Little Brother, 1998). Arrows tenta di ripetere la magia dell'album precedente e Where Is Your Woman si riallaccia alle "canzoni" atmosferiche del disco di debutto.

Edible Flowers (february 1998 - WIN, 1999), una collaborazione con il bassista Devin "Crib" Sarno, sembra reinventarne la carriera attraverso lunghe trance per toni ipnotici.

The Inkling (may 1999 - Cryptogramophone, 2000), recorded by a quartet of Cline, Zena Parkins (harp), Mark Dresser (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums), is a majestic effort to bridge jazz and rock in the age of post-rock. Rather than the traditional "fusion" sound, Cline aims for angular and fractured rock "songs". Spider Wisdom is fueled by the galvanizing energy of rock music but the lead instruments layer noise after noise on top of the swinging rhythm section. Sunken Song is a chameleon that starts with Caribbean syncopation, then delves into more traditional jazz interchange and finally ventures into minimalist noisy repetitive patterns. However, Cline's project truly blossoms when it straddles the border between structure and free form. In New Old Hat the neoclassical guitar and bass duet picks us life towards the end, teased by a romantic cello and hissing cymbals. The 13-minute Queen Of Angels is a model of improvised chaos, with the instruments throwing preverbal sounds at each other in a dissolute manner. The collaboration peaks with the 15-minute Alstromeria, an extended piece that displays his "compositional" (or at least choreographic) skills: a quiet abstract conversation, an impressionist painting whose pixels have been scrambled, a fragile sonata in which silence and pauses are part of the score. The anemic nocturnal hallucination of Moth Song is its worthy corollary. Cline's "ambient jamming" leads to the hypnotic void of closer Lullaby For Ian.
The relatively pensive, relaxed, meditational tone on this album marked a "growing up" of sort: the creative fury of his early albums was now channeled through atmospheric, textural, psychological counterpoint.

Interstellar Space Revisited (february 1998 - Atavistic, 2001) is a tribute to John Coltrane's masterpiece.

Open The Door (Public Eyesore) documents a 1999 collaboration between guitarists Nels Cline and Elliott Sharp (plus a live recording of 2007).

Destroy All Nels Cline (july 2000 - Atavistic, 2001), a project for four guitarists and a rhythm section, was another sensational enterprise that aimed at redefining the meaning of jazz from a punk-rock perspective. Cline is at the peak of both his imagination and his technique, indulging in the extreme chaos and noise of Spider Wisdom, crafting the terrifying atmosphere of After Armenia, penning the evocative nine-minute meditation of The Ringing Hand, and attaining the brief Buddhist-inspired ecstasy of Friends of Snowman. The 14-minute As In Life, one of his masperpieces, undergoes a number of transformations: hysterical chirping and tweeting, lounge-style lullaby, minimalist crescendo with exotic drumming, and chaos. The 12-minute psychedelic lattice of Martyr is pierced by a cosmic guitar feedback. The band steals the show in the fiery jazz-rock convulsions of Chi Cacoan and of the ten-minute Talk of Chocolate Bed. Cline's project excels at "destroying" the composition, making music out of the fragments. His guitar is not too original when it engages in epic solos, but it is wildly original when it does the exact opposite: bury itself in a dust of non-virtuoso sounds.

Nels Cline also leads L. Stinkbug, a band with guitarist G.E. Stinson, bassist Stuart Liebig and drummer Scott Amendola. The Allure Of Roadside Curios (Starlight Furniture Company, 2002) collects four lengthy jams, as intense and mesmerizing as usual. The focus is on the timbres of the instruments, that are bent and "prepared" to generate the oddest pitches and lows.

The Instrumentals (august 2001 - Cryptogramophone, 2002), ironically credited to the Nels Cline Singers (bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola), run the gamut from the 15-minute astral free-form jam Blood Drawing that explodes in a dizzy gypsy dance of sorts, to the subdued impressionistic 12-minute mural of Lucia, from the savage and bluesy Hendrix-ian rave-up Lowered Boom to the acrobatic counterpoint drenched in suspenseful atmosphere of the nine-minute A Mug Like Mine, from the brief cubistic rock'n'roll Cause for Concern to the minimalist crescendo of Suspended Head, from the languid and dissonant chamber music of Harbor Child to the lively deconstruction of country-rock of Ghost of the Pinata.

The Acoustic Guitar Trio (september 2000 - Incus, 2002) is Cline, Rod Poole and Jim McAuley, which is just that: an acoustic guitar trio.

Buried On Bunker Hill (recorded in 2003 - Ground Fault, 2004), a collaboration with bassist Devin "Crib" Sarno, is droning ambient music.

The all-instrumental The Giant Pin (august 2003 - Cryptogramophone, 2004) was again credited to the Nels Cline Singers, although it sounded less ambitious than their first disc. This time around most of the pieces are rooted in the jazz tradition, and serve mainly to display the instrumental prowess of the trio (notably the delirious guitar workout of Fly Fly). It includes the moving ten-minute Something About David H, a laid-back shuffle with a soaring melodic coda, and the delicate eleven-minute fantasia Bright Moon. The abstract creativity of Instrumentals surfaces again in the noisy middle of He Still Carries A Torch For Her, in the psychedelic cacophony of Boy Needs A Door (one of his boldest compositions), and in the abstract nine-minute poem Spell, a tour de force of guitar noise.

The Entire Time (february 2003) was a collaboration with Vinny Golia.

Immolation/Immersion (april 2005 - Strange Attractors, 2005) is a collaboration with saxophonist Wally Shoup and percussionist Chris Corsano. highlighted by the 28-minute high-energy jam Immolation Immersion.

New Monastery (Cryptogramophone, 2006) was a tribute to the music of Andrew Hill, although it sounded more like a very personal reconstruction of it.

The Nels Cline Singers remained Cline's main project, crafting another all-instrumental gem, Draw Breath (february 2007 - Cryptogramophone, 2007), a multi-stylistic tour de force. The overture is the haunting funereal ambient vignette Caved-In Heart Blues. After the more conventional (and way more lively) jazz jam of Attempted and the virulent jazz-rock of Confection, the 16-minute An Evening At Pops and the eight-minute Squirrel Of God returned Cline to his trademark abstract noisescapes, the former undulating between ambient pointillism and heavy-metal overtones, the latter indulging in a free-form stream of glissandoes and assorted instrumental noises before unleashing a tender melodic theme. The 15-minute Mixed Message was the rocking epicenter of the album, started by guitar frenzy over fast swinging beat and ended by repetitive hard-rock riffs over pounding drums. The album includes some surprising detours into new styles: The Angel Of Angels is almost new-age music for him, replete with a spiritual melody and steady rhythm, and Recognize I is a folk lullaby by his standards.

Duo Milano (april 2006) documents guitar duets between Nels Cline and Elliot Sharp.

Downpour (Victo, 2007) documents a live jam with accordionist Andrea Parkins and drummer Tom Rainey.

Distressed (Temporary Residence, 2006) documents a session between drummer Zach Hill (Hella) and guitarist Nels Cline (Geraldine Fibbers) under the moniker Damsells.

The solo Coward (april 2008 - Cryptogramophone, 2009) was both a living catalog of guitar techniques and a kaleidoscope of transfigured genres: droning ambient music (Epiphyllum ), dreamy folk fantasias a` la John Fahey (Prayer Wheel), hypnotic exotic music (Thurston Country), flamenco (X Change(s)), country music (The Nomad's Home). The 19-minute Rod Poole's Gradual Ascent To Heaven was a simple stream of consciousness for country and folk fingerpicking. He basically made a point of staying away from rock and jazz. This was Cline's attempt at austere pan-ethnic chamber music. The only piece here to offer his hallucinatory noisescapes is the six-movement 18-minute chaos-rock suite Onan, where Cline runs the gamut from horror drones to chaotic chirping, from demented distortion to rock'n'roll deconstruction.

Elevating Device (2009) is a collaboration with ex-Shadowfax's G.E. Stinson, containing just one 44-minute piece.

The Nels Cline Singers added David Witham on electric piano and organ, Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda on synthesizer, and percussionists Greg Saunier, Satomi Matsuzaki, John Dieterich. double-disc Initiate, comprising a studio session (march 2009) and a live session that is mostly devoted to modern classics (september 2009). The new material is a mixed bag. The astral soloing of Floored sounds like old-fashioned prog-rock of the Canterbury school. Divining smacks of mellow lounge jazz-rock. Cline mostly impersonates the atmospheric guitarist that was popular in the 1960s, notably in the hypercharged dub dance of King Queen, highlighted by an almost Doors-ian organ solo. Even the best intentioned pieces don't seem to know how to end. The nine-minute Red Line To Greenland takes off from its synth and guitar noisescape to unleash an anthemic slab of space-rock. Grow Closer is a fluid quasi-raga guitar meditation over voodoo rhythm that, after a hymn-like bass solo, intones a trivial new-age refrain. Mercy Procession takes forever to raise from the ashes and then simply keeps growing and growing without a clear destination. The most daring ideas, like the dissonant orgy of Scissor/Saw, are barely sketched. The live album includes the gloomy dissonant chamber music of Forge, the swinging Fly Fly that is merely a pretext for a gargantuan display of guitar prowess, the hard-rocking Raze a rendition of Carla Bley's And Now The Queen, the whirling Middle-eastern crescendo of Blues Too, a nine-minute version of Thurston County the rather conventional jazz-rock of Sunken Song and an Hendrix-ian cover of Joe Zawinul's Boogie Woogie Waltz. The live album does not amount to much, and the studio album is only intermittently worthy of Cline's fame.

Floored By Four (july 2009) was performed by a quartet with Yuka Honda (keyboards and vibes), Mike Watt (the cofounder of Minutemen and fIREHOSE, who wrote all tracks) and drummer Dougie Bowne (who worked with John Cale, Iggy Pop and Lounge Lizards).

Celestial Septet (november 2008) was a collaboration with the Rova Saxophone Quartet. Cesar Chavez, credited to The Singers' drummer Scott Amendola, sounds like a mournful requiem, but the instrumentalists are bit too restrained. Adams' Trouble Ticket is, instead, a bit too extroverted, with Anthony Braxton-ian minimalist repetitions and excited horn counterpoint that is not fully justified by the non-existent theme. When Cline's guitar enters the stage, the piece flames up, but it's too little too late. Cline's 16-minute The Buried Quilt transitions from a somber symphonic cluter to a frenzied free jam that finally highlights the septet's interplay. Ochs' 25-minute labyrinthine Whose to Know opens in a romantic nocturnal atmosphere until a Cline solo injects a dose of playful exuberance that bounces from one instrument to the other yielding a demented merry-go-round of melodies. When the excitement subsides, the contrabass leads a plaintive meditation that the other instruments join at times, although none manages to restore before the final collective eruption of joy.

The double-disc Dirty Baby (january 2008) collects music that Cline composed as soundtrack to an art exhibition. The six-movement Silhouettes begins with a brief harmonica-led overture that sounds like a slightly detuned Morricone spaghetti-western soundtrack. The second movement is even more cinematic in nature, with the guitar weaving an evocative melody around the plaintive harmonica. The arrangement for both is sort of new-age music. The third movement, however, opens with ghostly guitar dissonances and sounds of nature, continues on a collision path with a dumb cello and Jon Brion's synthesizer, plunges into chaotic collective cacophony and ends in a coda of glissandoes. The fourth movement, instead, is a gentle watercolor for acoustic guitar, again closer to new-age music than jazz. The eleven-minute fifth movement is a more regular jam that blends intricate swinging rhythm, jazzy guitar licks, petulant synth noise and distorted soul organ lines. The twelve-minute sixth movement is an oppressive industrial metronome scarred by astral guitar effects, slowly coalescing into a disciplined minimalist concerto. There is nothing revolutionary here. Cline is enjoying himself in the company of good friends, who trust his mischieving imagination perhaps too much.
The 33 Cityscapes are miniatures for a much larger ensemble (winds, reeds, strings, guitars, percussion, vibraphone, xylophone), ranging from the street fanfare of I'll Be Getting Out Soon And I Haven't Forgotten Your Testimony Put Me to the string adagio of You Dirty Rotten Bitch, from the requiem-like orchestral lament of In God We Trust to the dissonant chamber music of Give Up The Gold Or Give Up Your Life. Like with all fragmented music, this 33-piece suite fails to sustain interest. Not only the pieces are very short, but they often mutate radically during their brief existence. Very few of these pieces can be called "accomplished": You Talk You Get Killed, that couples a noir blues groove and post-bop trumpet, and the loose subdued jamming of I Thought I Told You That Wewon't Stop. Too many tracks sound chaotic for the sake of being chaotic, or, better, for lack of ideas. It sounds like a colossal waste of talents.

Tim Berne, Jim Black and Nels Cline improvised The Veil (july 2009).

The general feeling was that Nels Cline was releasing too much music, and its quality was beginning to be inversely proportional to its quantity.

The trio of Thollem McDonas (piano), William Parker (acoustic bass) and Nels Cline (electric guitar) recorded The Gowanus Session (january 2012), including the 16-minute Lives. Gowanus Sessions II (january 2012) contains two side-long compositions released only seven years later.

Unfold Ordinary Mind (april 2012) features the quintet of Ben Goldberg (clarinets), Nels Cline (guitar), Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth (both on tenor sax) and Ches Smith (drums).

The Nels Cline Singers' fifth album, Macroscope (Mac Avenue, 2014) featured the core duo with drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Trevor Dunn (who replaces Devin Hoff) plus keyboardist Yuka Honda (Cibo Matto), percussionists Cyro Baptista and Josh Jones, and harpist Zeena Parkins.

The guitar duo of Nels Cline and Julian Lage recorded Room (december 2013).

Fade To Orange (april 2011) features Scott Amendola on drums, electronics & compositions, Trevor Dunn on electric bass, William Winant on orchestral percussion and the Magik Magik Orchestra and the Fade to Orange Winds (with Ben Goldberg & Steve Adams).

Thollem McDonas on acoustic piano with effects & modified electric piano Michael Wimberly on drums played on Radical Empathy (february 2014).

The guitar trio of Nels Cline, Henry Kaiser and Mermen's Jim Thomas, along with drummer Weasel Walter and Mermen's bassist Allen Whitman, recorded Jazz Free (september 2008).

The double-disc concept album Lovers (Blue Note, 2016) (december 2013) contains 13 covers and five originals performed by a large ensemble including JD Parran (various flutes, clarinets and saxes), Yuka Honda (celesta and synthesizer), Ben Goldberg (clarinets), Zeena Parkins (harp), Kenny Wollesen (vibraphone, marimba and percussion), violists, violinists and celloists.

Molecular Affinity (august 2015) was another collaboration among Pauline Oliveros, Nels Cline (electric guitars, Dobro, effects) and Thollem McDonas (piano).

The Nels Cline 4 featuring bassist Scott Colley, drummer Tom Rainey and fellow guitarist Julian Lage debuted on Currents Constellations (may 2017).

What Is To Be Done (december 2016) documents the trio of Larry Ochs (tenor & sopranino saxes), Nels Cline (electric guitar, effects) and Gerald Cleaver (drums).

The four-disc box-set Quartet (New Haven) 2014 (june 2014) contains four one-hour improvisations by Anthony Braxton (sopranino, soprano, alto, bariton, bass, and contrabass saxes), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn, piccolo and bass trumpets, trumpbone), Nels Cline (electric guitar) and Greg Saunier (drums), each one dedicated to a music giant: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown and Merle Haggard.

Stretch Woven (september 2017) contains duets with Scott Amendola on percussion and electronics.

The Nels Cline Singers, featuring Skerik (sax), Trevor Dunn (bass), Scott Amendola (drums), Brian Marsella (piano) and Cyro Baptista (percussion), recorded Share The Wealth (may 2019), which contains the 17-minute Stump The Panel and the 16-minute A Place On The Moon.

Cline was one of the improvisers on Sculpting Sound (december 2023), a collaboration with sound sculptor Harry Bertoia.

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