Sound — 10
Nels Cline, an avant-garde jazz guitarist based in Los Angeles, is an incredibly unique musician, who's played with everyone from Charlie Hayden to Thurston Moore to Mike Watt to Wilco. With his many projects and collaborations, Nels is known to construct music ranging between sonic landscaping, romanticism, and incredibly fast acid/fuzz jazz. In more recent years he's joined the epic rock group, Wilco, adding beautifully melodic runs and explosive sound effects to the band. With the release of their most recent album(the first studio album including Nels), he's been extremely busy. However, he made time to record his most recent album with a band of his own, the Nels Cline Singers. This release is called Draw Breath, and it's one of the fattest albums Nels Cline has ever released under any project. It includes a strangely cohesive variety of music. With free jazz outbursts, ambient-injected ballads, water-logged loops, and even a couple acoustic arrangements. This album demonstrates Nels Cline's mindblowing versatility and improvisational technique, which to anyone is recognizable. His use of electronics and effects is also more audible in this album than the rest, making it a really decent almost-techno recording. It also of course demonstrates the amazing technique of the two other guys in his band: Scott Amendola(drums, effects) and Devin Hoff(contrabass). These two beasts have what it takes to play at par with Cline, and provide fantastic response and jazz freedom to the songs. Nels' melodies are too legit for life, and his ability to mix perfected arrangements with crazed space-alien rock mood swings shows that this group couldn't be much tighter(Draw Breath was for the most part recorded live).
Lyrics — 10
Given that this is an instrumental album, there are no lyrics. The closest thing to them is a toy Nels uses to amplify his voice into his guitar. He sort of hums into it on occasion, and it's a cool effect. So that this category does not bring down the rest of the album, I'll give it a ten.
Overall Impression — 10
This CD is one of the best if not the best from the Nels Cline Singers so far. It's recorded really, really well, and displays not only the group's insane chops, but also an extremely well-refined songwriting/arranging ability. I recommend this album for anyone who's into jazz, anyone who's into noises, anyone who's into beautiful melodies, and anyone who's into pure musical freedom. With blazing shred tracks like "Mixed Message", and moody, mellowed soundscapes like "Squirrel of God" (featuring the auxiliary percussion of Glenn Kotche from Wilco), I'd say this recording is a must have. You'll hear the influences of John Coltrane, and also that of Deerhoof in this record. So if that doesn't spark your curiosity, who knows what will.