Nels Cline

Buried on Bunker Hill

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Buried on Bunker Hill is not the first collaboration between guitarist Nels Cline and bassist Devin Sarno, but it is the most riveting one. Despite the fact that the album came out in Ground Fault's "Series I (quiet)," there is nothing quiet about its tortured guitar soundscapes and noisy constructions. The 19-minute "Swinging London" is an ambient roller coaster: the piece never breaks free of its backing aerial guitar loops, but it features all kinds of sonic permutations and includes some inspired guitar and bass soloing easily detectable through the effects. "Hydrofoil" is a shorter statement of a similar kind and at this point fans of Cline's avant-jazz playing know this CD will not make the slightest step in that direction. Then comes "A Knot in the Wrist," another extended track. The contrast with what came before is immediate: this one is mean, gritty, noisy, and dirty. A thick texture of harsh noise obscures what goes on behind it, bringing to mind Sarno's first Japanese-influenced experiments under the moniker Crib. The track remains highly listenable and shows a lot of variations in dynamics (if not in moods) -- it is not in-your-face harsh noise, but a tightly controlled, subdued form of noise art. The concluding "Only Peace" is self-explanatory and comes back to the ambient pastures of the first piece. Buried on Bunker Hill is a well balanced album, tailored to keep hold of your ears. It may not be the most original guitar soundscape album out there, nor is it an essential Nels Cline recording, but it makes a very satisfying listen.

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