(133) Karl Stark, www.philly.com -- 12/30/07

Guitarist Nels Cline is one of those unknowable cats. Just when you think you understand him, he's moved on to new collaborators. From a start in Los Angeles' improvised music community, Cline has hung with jazz seekers Julius Hemphill and Charlie Haden, and toiled with progressive folks from Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra West Coast to Wilco.

His largely trio effort here with bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola is one wild affair - gorgeous at times, raucous noise at others.

There aren't even singers per se. The set, which adds in the percussion and glockenspiel of Glenn Kotche, careens from the wildest rock to frenetic jazz to moments of meditative calm. Some of it is artistic self-indulgence of an extreme kind that's likely to engage only free music converts who are on massive amounts of caffeine.

But then there's the simple "Caved-In Heart Blues," which suggests a mystical side, and "The Angel of Angels," which is flat-out beautiful.

- Karl Stark

Karl Stark