(133) Vish Khanna, www.Exclaim.ca -- November 2007

On Draw Breath, the Nels Cline Singers
remind listeners how adventurously askew their leader is outside of his
day job. Free guitar virtuoso Nels Cline has never enjoyed a higher
profile than that gained from his membership in Wilco. While that band
keeps him busy for months, Cline’s eponymous power trio sounds tighter
than ever. In roars and whispers, Draw Breath reflects the
ferocious, pent-up interplay between Cline, contrabassist Devin Hoff
and percussionist Scott Amendola, whose last record together was 2004’s
The Giant Pin. Even as songs like “Confection” batter forward
with rhythmic prog-pop zeal, the Singers are conscious of dynamics,
enabling their sound to head in any direction. As the glorious ramble
of “An Evening at Pops’” demonstrates, the music on Draw Breath is
often very intense and heavy, whether sombre or charged-up,
occasionally all in one song. The middle ground is tread on two
acoustic instrumentals, “Recognize I” and its sequel “Recognize II,”
which are sleeping aids in disguise — gentle, airy pieces with an
undercurrent of busy brilliance. Cline brings in Wilco
multi-percussionist Glen Kotche for the squall-turned-orchestral boom
that is “Squirrel of God,” and the Singers revel in their compositional
freedom. -by Vish Khanna-

Vish Khanna
November 2007