Friday, January 16, 2009

Nels Cline: Dar He Drone

It seems Nels Cline is finally getting his due. As a guitarist, he's got chops out his ears, a thorough knowledge of guitar technique, a lovely lyrical bent and impeccable ear for note selection, a healthy obsession with electronic effects, and, most importantly, a fearless attitude when it comes to experimentation, improvisation, and self-reinvention. His long-time fans know him primarily as a brilliant, unpredictable jazz man, the greater public knows him as "the dude that plays all the crazy solos" in indie-rock sensations Wilco, and the underbelly of the noise scene recognizes him as an occasional collaborator with Sonic Youth main-man Thurston Moore and a purveyor of ambient and drone music. After years of spreading himself around the experimental music scene, there's finally some weight to his name.

His work in the drone genre is what we're considering today, because it's an aspect of his improvisation and musicianship that many people still aren't aware of. In the past ten years, Cline has made three drone albums with Devin Sarno. Sarno has recorded under his own name and the moniker CRIB for over a decade, focusing on solo-bass improvisation that explores the use of feedback and subsonic frequencies to create ambient music. The multitude of bizarre and ominous noises the two men conjure up is impressive, and often one is left wondering how a guitar and a bass can create such dense, ethereal tonal clouds. The following video, recorded last November in Los Angeles, provides an interesting peak into the creative process.

Nels Cline + Devin Sarno - The Wulf from ZF FILMS on Vimeo.

And for good measure, here's Cline performing with Wilco, letting his 70s guitar-rock side shine brightly:

Wilco - "Impossible Germany" performed live in Benica, Spain, 2007 from WilcoClub

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