Nels Cline has been at the forefront of both the jazz and new music scenes in Los Angeles for the past twenty years. He has worked with such jazz artists as Vinny Golia, Julius Hemphill, and Quartet Music. On the other side, he is a premiere "noisemeister," working with the likes of Mike Watt, Thurston Moore (from Sonic Youth), and his own Nels Cline Trio.
Destroy All Nels Cline contains a mix of both styles. He has assembled a veritable guitar orchestra that creates a thick, dense wall of sound. The opening "Spider Wisdom" is full of little squiggles and noises as fingers skitter across fretboards and percussion clatters in the background. In many ways this track is reminiscent of something guitarist Derek Bailey and drummer Tony Oxley would produce. "Chicagoan" is driven forward by bass and drums with dissonant guitar ringing on top which breaks into Mahavishnu Orchestra type guitar licks. The frenetic soloing is like a more freaked out John McLaughlin.
"The Ringing Wind" is again Mahavishnuesque, with modal arpeggios and drummer Alex Cline at times playing like Billy Cobham. Nels delivers a very beautiful and haunting solo over a slow moving background. The band builds to a climax with big chiming chords behind a beautiful melody line. "Progression" is perhaps the most conventional tune here. A slow chord progression builds up while various guitars create waves of feedback/noise against it. The sound is haunting, yet strangely beautiful.
At over 14 minutes, "As In Life (in memory of Horace Tapscott)" sounds like a mini-soundtrack. The first eight minutes build up the atmosphere before drums enter and things take off. Against a driving tom beat, guitars ring and chime out from all over the soundfield before breaking into an arpeggio with a lead line on top. Guitars are added along the way, thickening up the sound and picking up the pace until giving way to everyone playing in a cataclysmic ending.
"Friends of Snowman" is made up of the assembled guitars picking out harmonics and high, ringing notes that sound like snowflakes falling. Over this, are achingly beautiful guitar and slide guitar solos. The closing "Martyr" starts with just barely audible atmospheric guitars until walls of feedback rise and fall, giving way to staccato drums and a slow melody line. Feedback guitar enters, soloing on top until dissolving back into atmospherics.
The music here is often beautiful, haunting, delicate, and brutal. It is also vital music that doesn't hold on to any record label apron strings. Nels Cline is one of the most interesting guitarists working today. Recommended for adventurous listeners.