Nels Cline / Wally Shoup / Chris Corsano
he endlessly inventive guitarist Nels Cline's 20-year recording career has gained much of its steam from his growing fame as a member of rock bands like the Geraldine Fibbers and Wilco, but his output in his original arena, experimental jazz, has never slowed as he perused more song-based genres. Immolation/Immersion is just the latest of scores of improvised recordings from Cline in some manner of group configuration with other noise/jazz journeymen. In this particular instance, his sparring partners are alto saxophonist Wally Shoup and percussionist Chris Corsano.
The Seattle-based Shoup, who previously collaborated with Cline buddy Thurston Moore on 2000's excellent live disc Hurricane Floyd, seems to lead the trio for much of Immolation/Immersion, softly blowing snatches of melody as Cline finds jazzy licks and guttural noises to complement them with. Corsano is the relative newcomer in the ensemble, and it's the instruments to which he's credited in the liner notes, "drumset, wires," that intrigue the most. It's unclear what kind of wires Corsano plays or how he plays them, but the sounds that he apparently makes with them during the moments when he's not drumming are curious and unique even in the context of an anything-goes improv session.
Immolation/Immersion is comprised of five tracks, recorded live in the studio, but more than half of the disc is taken up by the 28-minute title track. It's preceded only by the shortest track, "Lake Of Fire Memories," two minutes of horn blowing and amp noise that might seem to be a typical excerpt from such a session, but is scarcely repeated throughout the rest of the album. "Immolation/Immersion," is a comparatively restrained piece, but does work its way up to a slight climax at its conclusion, after a long series of seemingly unconnected sounds that could arguably be divided into movements.
The three shorter tracks that follow Immolation/Immersion's title track each feel like more unified and successful variations on one idea. On "Minus Mint," Cline and Shoup push around quiet, minimal themes, and the closing "Ghost Bell Canto" is an appropriately titled piece full of spare, spooky sounds. The 13-minute "Beard Of Pine" traverses several different phases more successfully and more organically than the title track. In its first half, Corsano's drums resolve into a fast bebop swing beat for the first, and possibly only, time on the album as Cline lets loose his trademark skronky runs of melody. But the second half reaches a frenetic collapse into a looser series of interactions between the instruments, and when those fragmented sounds build up again into ear-shredding noise at the end of "Beard Of Pine," the track becomes the closest thing to a satisfying composition that appears in the set.
If you find comfort in the nervous, unpredictable sounds that these improvisers make on dozens of releases and in hundreds of live dates, this noise will be music to your ears, but it's not going to set the discriminating listener's world on fire. Immolation/Immersion ranks behind last year's Ash and Tabula with Andrea Parkins and Tom Rainey in terms of Cline's recent improv trios, and Shoup and Corsano have had better showcases. But it's nonetheless a sturdy addition to the vast and growing catalogs of each musician.
Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2006-01-12