The Nels Cline Singers

August 16, 2007

This third instrumental disc from the “singers”—guitarist Cline, double bassist Devon Hoff, and drummer/electronics whiz Scott Amendola—is a mature statement that ably showcases Cline and Co.’s instrumental and improvisational prowess. These guys have played together on so many gigs and recording projects throughout the years that at this point their collective improvisational consciousness is the equivalent of a three-way Vulcan Mind Meld. The performances are exceptional throughout, but Cline’s playing is particularly, um, breathtaking. His hyper-speed solos on “Confection” and “Mixed Message,” for example, are among his best ever, and his musical use of effects is often stunning.

Draw Breath opens with the brooding, melancholy “Caved in Heart Blues,” which at first appears to reference “Eleanor Rugby,” then briefly slips into a surrealistic Torn/Crimson-esque ambience before easing back into the opening theme. From there, the album continually shifts gears, presenting jazzy rockers with unexpected dynamic and timbral shifts (“Attempted,” “Confection,” “Mixed Message”), intriguing sound sculptures (“An Evening at Pops’,” “Squirrel of God”), profoundly beautiful and consonant acoustic guitar compositions (“Recognize I,” “Recognize II”), and the graceful, almost orchestral-sounding “The Angel of Angels.” An engaging and exhilarating blend of melodicism and mayhem.
—Barry Cleveland

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