May 2005

The Nels Cline Singers
May 20, 2005 • Silver Dollar • Toronto
Report by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
Our friend at the bar was right.

You have to listen hard to a group like The Nels Cline Singers. If you don't, it'll sound like a lot of racket, and you'll say things like, 'why do they bother to play musical instruments'?

Nels Cline

Get it straight — Nels Cline is a monster guitar player. His lengthy résumé spills and speeds and wails from his long fingers, as jazz-classical-rock-folk-electric morph and twist in this landslide of his full-out expression.

Please hear me out.

Drummer Scott Amendola is eye-to-eye, matching Cline's pulled outbursts with thrusts and counter thrusts. Steady as a proverbial rudder in the storm, bass player Devin Hoff navigates and responds. Drummer Amendola twists knobs and pushes little buttons on various boxes of gear at his side. ("A Mug Like Mine")

A soundscape dominates the stage, a soundscape developed from sampling and pre-recording their sounds, as Cline and Amendola stay extra busy pushing buttons and foot pedals, composing right in front of us, and still jamming full out.

Cline's band mixes composition and improvisation, with electronic machines running and band instruments playing, so that eventually everybody on the stage starts sounding the same (in a good way).

Scott Amendola

Devin Hoff

Nifty, a 5-piece Toronto band, opened the night. (We're now in a tape loop.)

Nifty has a taste for LOUD meltdowns, but clearly has an underlying jazz sensibility. The soundboard mixer makes the tenor sax sound like a synthesizer, and guitarist Erin Langley sounds like an electronic fog horn, all as part of their pushing and sometimes brutally collaged music. Drummer Rob Gordon kicks the band and indicates the next step. You can tell that Nifty has listened to a lot of music, just by the way they mix and match sounds.

Well! Nifty doesn't play rock and roll. Neither do the Nels Cline Singers — by the way, the Nels Cline Singers have no singers.

What these two groups play is a body-based fusion of many kinds of music in a framework of electric and acoustic sounds.

And they improvise, so we can shoot off into the future.

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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Roger Humbert
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