The concept of duality has been a defining characteristic of guitarist Nels Cline since he first emerged in the late 1970s. On one hand, there's the harmonically sophisticated, compositionally rich Nels Cline who contributed to jazz recordings by everyone from Tim Berne to Vinny Golia to Julius Hemphill. On the other, there's the more extreme, visceral Nels Cline, who brought unbridled power and reckless abandon to the post-punk, alternative rock of Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, and The Geraldine Fibbers. Thirty years on, Cline continues to explore this dichotomy, whether it's in his role as lead guitarist for famed rockers Wilco or with The Nels Cline Singers, his flagship group for the last ten years. Initiate, the Singers' fourth release and Cline's seventh as a leader for Cryptogramophone, approaches the concept of Yin and Yang with a series of firsts for both the group and its intrepid leader, slyly dubbed by JazzTimes as "The World's Most Dangerous Guitarist."
Initiate, in a beautifully designed, six-panel digipak featuring Simon Norfolk's gorgeous photographs of the world's largest machine (the Large Hadron Collider at CERN) is Cline's first double album and, with its second disc culled from a September 2009 performance at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco, the Singers' first live recording.
Nels Cline SingersThe differences between the two discs are as stunning as they are revealingly demonstrative of the shared language that Cline, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola have built over the years. The studio disc, described by producer David Breskin (Ronald Shannon Jackson, Bill Frisell, John Zorn) as "technicolor, non-naturalistic, hyper-sensuous," explores a variety of musical touchstones that have been an integral part of Cline's DNA from the very beginning but are, in some ways, making their first overt appearances just now. The live disc, contrarily, is "stark, raw, a black-and-white movie,"?—?an incendiary 'what you see is what you get' document. Here the Singers perform material dating as far back as the episodic avant-bop of "Sunken Song" (from Cline's 2000 Cryptogramophone debut, The Inkling) to the most recent "Thurston County" (from the guitarist's 2009 solo album, Coward) which, with Hoff and Amendola in tow this time, turns into a far more jagged and fiery tribute to the guitarist's occasional co-conspirator, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore.
Initiate is also the first Singers album not recorded and produced by the longstanding Crypto team of engineer Rich Breen and producer/label head Jeff Gauthier. Engineer Ron Saint Germain (Bad Brains, Ornette Coleman, Soundgarden) brings something different to the table, especially on the studio disc, where Cline indulges himself in a program as close to sheer beauty as any he's ever done.
Initiate is an album of inner and external reflection, a consolidation of the old, the new and the what may well be. What you have here is the definitive Nels Cline Singers set, one that decimates convention and plays off of?—?just as it unites?—?opposing forces, emotions, instincts: smashing dualities. 1.18 trillion electron volts and counting.