Nels Cline - Dirty Baby
- Artist: Nels Cline
- Album: Dirty Baby
- Label: Cryptogramophone
- Year of Release: 2010
- ME Rating:
- Reviewed by: patchen on 2010-11-24
It is saying something for me to suggest that Dirty Baby:Part I" is the most gorgeous song Nels Cline has ever written, but it is. The legendary experimental guitarist has, with his second 2CD in the last year, shown himself to be at a creative peak. "Dirty Baby," a musical response to Ed Rushca's late 80s-early 90s "Censor Strip" paintings (in collaboration with poet/ producer David Breskin), is one of Cline's most diverse works. Over the course of a seven part title piece and forty one tracks in total, he explores the emotionally impossible: how to express, in words, or music, the feelings evoked by seeing a work of visual art.
Breskin has tried this before, with guitarist Bill Frisell and Gerhard Richter's paintings (2002's Richter 8580). Here the latest Cline "orchestra" uses guitar, layered electronics, strings, homemade instruments and the occasional horn to produce mostly under two minute reflections, each haunting and slightly tense. This creates a mood of at first reticence, and then defiance, as one looks at a painting and, not knowing how to respond, jumps in and tries to feel it viscerally anyway. There are some sonically abrasive moments, like on "Be Cautious Else We Be Bangin On You," and "I Will Wipe You Off The Face Of This Earth," while at other times there is a feeling of old blues (the carnivalesque ": I Heard You Moved to Pahrump, Nevana - You Cannot Escape") or a mash up of noise and trad. Sounds ("Want To Get To Know My Boiling Point?" and "Note We Have Already Got Rid Of Several Like You - One Was Found in River Just Recently.").
Gorgeous and confrontational, Cline's music here seems to imply that visual art means something different to each individual witness of it, and that the tension between one's own reactions, that of the artist's, and the potential chasm in between is what creates that odd buzz of feeling so alive when looking at a painting. Or maybe he just got drunk with friends, looked at some paintings and let it rip. That keeps us alive too.
"Dirty Baby" is the latest missive from a guitarist who is all about pushing the boundaries of his instrument and his audience. Nels Cline here invites us to listen to him and to see the paintings of Ed Ruscha, and to most definitely judge both according to our own reactions. This set comes with reproductions of Rushca's work, the paintings sorted according to his "Silhouette" and "Cityscape' sections of his Censor Strip paintings, which were 66 in all. While Ruscha played with the idea of what could possibly be censored in the postmodern era, Cline relies on completely uncensored imagination to guide us into our own primary responses to the paintings.
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