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CD Review: The Nels Cline Singers

Initiate (Cryptogramophone)

Initiate is a startling, brilliant display of a band of huge, determinedly modern range. Spearheaded by Nels Cline, better known as Wilco's lead guitarist, Initiate offers two CDs with more than two hours of driving, daring music spanning blues, ambient, electronic and industrial. Presented in a foldout package featuring mesmerizing images of the Large Hadron Collider proton smasher in Switzerland, the set includes the hard rock of "Floored," the abstract skronk of "Red Line to Greenland," the geometric jungleland of "Scissor/Saw" and the delicately ominous "Zingiber," which embeds Cline's Spanish guitar in a setting of wordless vocals. And that's just the studio disc. Recorded last fall at San Francisco's Café du Nord, the live disc is as adventurous and a bit more accessible. The band, which also includes bassist Devin Hoff and percussionist/gizmo master Scott Amendola, covers Carla Bley's sweet "And Now the Queen" and Weather Report's "Boogie Woogie Waltz," affirming its roots (half, anyway) in jazz that will always be avant garde. In "Blues, Too," Cline pays homage to Jim Hall, a similarly eclectic — though far less electric — guitarist. Then the band turns around and piles into the cumulative, hypnotic dissonance of "Thurston County," a tribute to Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. The Nels Cline Singers do it all fearlessly, smashing boundaries with discipline, chops and glee. — Wolff

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