Nels Cline Singers Draw Breath

On Draw Breath, the Nels Cline Singers remind listeners how adventurously askew their leader is outside of his day job. Free guitar virtuoso Nels Cline has never enjoyed a higher profile than that gained from his membership in Wilco. While that band keeps him busy for months, Cline’s eponymous power trio sounds tighter than ever. In roars and whispers, Draw Breath reflects the ferocious, pent-up interplay between Cline, contrabassist Devin Hoff and percussionist Scott Amendola, whose last record together was 2004’s The Giant Pin. Even as songs like "Confection” batter forward with rhythmic prog-pop zeal, the Singers are conscious of dynamics, enabling their sound to head in any direction. As the glorious ramble of "An Evening at Pops’” demonstrates, the music on Draw Breath is often very intense and heavy, whether sombre or charged-up, occasionally all in one song. The middle ground is tread on two acoustic instrumentals, "Recognize I” and its sequel "Recognize II,” which are sleeping aids in disguise — gentle, airy pieces with an undercurrent of busy brilliance. Cline brings in Wilco multi-percussionist Glen Kotche for the squall-turned-orchestral boom that is "Squirrel of God,” and the Singers revel in their compositional freedom.

Has the time apart affected the Singers?
Nels Cline: Strangely, we do seem to progress even though we don’t get together all that much. I think the chemistry deepens even when we’re not playing together somehow. This new CD is perhaps more wide-ranging dynamically and stylistically than its predecessors, which could actually make for a more confusing listening experience.

What inspired the raw energy here?
All the fury you describe is not scripted in these pieces; it just sort of happens. As far as where that derives from, I’m not really certain. On "An Evening at Pops,” I very distinctly wanted to make a direct reference to the Melvins with the slow metal section there. The rest of it is just completely spontaneous.

How is playing with Jeff Tweedy in Wilco?
I have to say, I do think he’s a very tragically underrated guitarist and I do hope that people get to hear him play more because, now that I’m in the band, he doesn’t do as many solos. Certainly anybody who’s heard A Ghost is Born knows that Jeff does some pretty wild and articulate guitar work. I think it’d be a shame if I became "Mr. lead boy.” (Cryptogramophone)