Kindred spirits: Fred Frith, Elliott Sharp, Wilco
Show: Sunday at the Hamilton. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 202-787-1000. www.thehamiltondc.com. $16-$20.
For all the praise he has received as a member of Wilco, guitarist Nels Cline never sounds more inspired — or more inquisitive — than when he’s charting his own, curiously zigzagging path.
“Macroscope,” the fifth album by his freewheeling trio, the Nels Cline Singers, offers a wide-aperture view of Cline’s sonic tastes and passions — a heady mix of improvised music that embraces elements of jazz, rock, funk, electronica, psychedelia, metal, samba and beyond. No doubt listeners will find some tracks far more enjoyable than others, but whatever the mood or mission, Cline and his core bandmates — bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Scott Amendola — sound fully engaged as they bounce motifs and rhythms off one another.
At its most accessible, on tracks such as “Red Before Orange,” the album showcases Cline’s shimmering jazz lyricism and dynamic shifts into low gear. At its most jarring, on “Hairy Mother” and “The Wedding Band,” Cline’s abrasive brand of metal and post-psychedelia comes into play. Because Cline’s toy box contains all manner of guitars, effects and loops, part of the fun is hearing him create fresh sounds with a colorful assortment of tweaks and flights. Witness the witty “Sascha’s Book of Frogs,” which brings the album to a romping close.
Oddly enough, the Nels Cline Singers have never been about vocals. But this time out, Cline sings, albeit briefly and inconsequentially. A few guest musicians, however, play significant roles, especially percussionist Cyro Baptista, who contributes to the band’s polyrhythmic thrust.