Nels Cline Singers, Macroscope

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 04.29.14 in Reviews

As both the current lead guitarist for Wilco and a member of the contemporary jazz elite, Nels Cline occupies the curious dual role of avant-garde instrumentalist and rock star. It could be an awkward fit, but Cline seems more than comfortable with the role — he’s willing to meet you anywhere you’ll meet him. If wild-boar-squeal feedback improv is your thing, you should go straight to The Veil, his 2011 trio album with drummer Jim Black and saxophonist Tim Berne. If you prefer a little more conventional indie-rock presentation in your post-rock fusion, it’s the second, live disc of Initiate — a 2010 album from his trio, the Nels Cline Singers — that should be your entry point. (Nobody in the group sings for real, by the way, though Cline himself will sometimes warble.)

The Wilco guitarist crosses more stylistic boundaries than usual

But ideally, once you learn to trust Cline, you should be willing to go wherever he wants to take you. And on Macroscope, Cline’s latest effort with his trio (now with Trevor Dunn on bass), the guitarist crosses more stylistic boundaries than usual. Inside an hour, you have the lounge-jazz meets distorted soloing of “Red Before Orange,” the Brazilian-influenced rhythms of “Respira,” and the abstracted party music of “The Wedding Band,” in addition to the power-trio stomping of “Canales’ Cabeza.” The record closes with the trio’s most experimental and winding pieces, such as the Sonic Youth-ish, gorgeously droning “Seven Zed Heaven,” and the musique-concrete rawk of “Hairy Mother.” By mixing all his paints, including some of the more conventionally attractive ones, this zig-zagging album sketches a maximalism that’s distinct in the guitarist’s large catalog.