AMN Reviews: White Out with Nels Cline – Accidental Sky (2015; Northern Spy Records)

AccidentalSky_cover_1400pxWebWhite Out, consisting of Lin Culbertson and Tom Surgal, have been playing live with Nels Cline for over 15 years. This is the first proper recording of their collaboration. Culbertson and Surgal are known for producing free-jam freakouts using a wide variety of instruments.  Cline, he of many solo albums, collaborations, and Wilco, is the reigning godfather of avant-guitar.

This release, which will be officially available in mid-October, features seven relatively short explorations, totaling about 38 minutes.  Not unlike many so-called “noise” efforts, determining who is responsible for which sounds requires some concentration. Culbertson and Surgal lay down aggressive synth and percussion lines, while Cline picks, wails and scrapes away. In some cases, the guitar lines are apparent, in others, Cline blends indistinguishably with his partners.

WhiteOutNels_Overpass_webBut a blank wall of sound this is not. There is a distinct theme and feel to Accidental Sky, a certain spaciousness that is reminiscent of 70’s Krautrock, Italy’s The Group, and perhaps a touch of Sun Ra. But just when you think your can begin to pigeonhole this trio, they will surprise you with a segment or piece focusing on something new: bells, flute, chanted vocals, found objects, or Cline’s full-out angular aggression.

Characteristic of this release the how they play together but apart, especially with percussion exhibiting a tangential relationship to the melodies, and these melodies only approaching melodicism. But this disconnection occurs in a natural and pleasing fashion. A highly compelling effort that puts the “free” back into free improv.

Related reviews:
AMN Reviews: The Nels Cline Singers – Macroscope (2014; Mack Avenue Records)
AMN Reviews: Medeski, Martin & Wood + Nels Cline – The Woodstock Sessions Vol. 2 (2014)

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