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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nels Cline - Dirty Baby (Cryptogramophone, 2010) ****½

When I started listening to the first tracks of "Dirty Baby", I couldn't believe my ears: Americana à la Bill Frisell, nice and clever guitar music, making my reviewer's mind wonder whether to make a comparison with the latter's new album, "Beautiful Dreamers". Yet gradually, the sweet country tunes make place for a more modern version of the blues, an incredibly funky "Dirty Baby Part V", containing ingredients of some existential angst, turning into sheer horror with the lengthy "Dirty Baby Part VI", which will suck you up with its demonic and repetitive rhythm and electronic madness, multilayered overdubs and wailing guitars. In short, you get a musical shift, or history if you want, from naive simplicity to complex destruction.

That's only part 1 of the CD, called "Silhouettes", and inspired by the paintings of Ed Rushka.

The second CD gives us not less than 33 snippets of music, also inspired by Ed Rushka paintings, and is titled "Cityscapes".

The short pieces are less united by a story-line that on the first CD, and the musical diversity they offer is huge, ranging from sweet guitar music to absolute noise, with all kinds of avant-garde and electronic adventures in between, and with a combination of it all, inlcuding classical chamber music and folk and world music and pumping blues and jazz and rock and punk and electronic doom and themes from distant pasts, all coagulating in the city's big melting pot of influences and visions, often conflicting, sometimes harmonious, yet always incredibly interesting. In stark contrast to the abstract paintings that Rushka makes, the music has a strong figurative side to it, but the various genres are so purified and reduced to their essence that they almost become abstract.

The music is impossible to pigeonhole, and that is of course part of the fun. Utterly creative, deranging yet equally enjoyable, discomforting and attractive.

A fantastic listening experience!

The musicians are:

Scott Amendola: drum set, percussion, loops/electronics
Bill Barrett: chromatic harmonica
Jon Brion: electric piano, EMS synthi, voice
Jessica Catron: cello
Alex Cline: percussion
Dan Clucas: trumpets, flutes
Jeremy Drake: electric & acoustic guitars, banjo ukulele
Brad Dutz: vibraphone, xylophones, frame drum, bongos
Danny Frankel: percussion, 1/2 drum set
Jeff Gauthier: violin
Vinny Golia: flutes, clarinets, saxophones
Devin Hoff: contrabass, bass guitar, cigarbox guitar
Wayne Peet: organ
Glenn Taylor: pedal steel guitar
Nels Cline: electric & acoustic guitars, lap steel, megamouth, cigarbox guitar, effects, Quintronics Drum Buddy

The CD comes with a booklet of paintings by Ed Rushka, and ghazals (poems) by David Breskin. For listeners who download the music, the booklet is unfortunately not available. Just to give an idea of Ruska's art, here are some examples, with the figurative difference between CD1 and CD2 being quite obvious.

I think this is also the most ambitious and best "merchandised" album by Cryptogramophone, with specifically dedicated website included.

The song titles are also the titles of Rushka's paintings :

- If I was you, I'd do just like I tell you to do
- Do as I say, or ...
- No mercy
- Do as told or suffer
- Agree to our terms, or prepare yourself for a blast furnace
- Note we have already got rid of several like you - One Was Found in the River Just Recently
- Little snitches like you end up in dumpsters all across town
- I'll be getting out soon and I haven't forgot your testimony put me in here
- You dirty rotten bitch

.... not exactly the kind of titles I've come across on jazz albums, but then, this is not jazz either ...

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef


John said...

Thanks for your review, Stef. I was awaiting it eagerly :)

Anonymous said...

Cline has long passed his prime.A few very nice albums,but that's it.


Anonymous said...

I'd rather listen to Mary Halvorson,anytime.I prefer her playing,and she's a much stronger composer than Cline.Maybe he spent too much time with Wilco...

Anonymous said...

Stef : It's Ed Ruscha (and no Ruschka), a famous conceptual artist.

Cheers, pH