Nels Cline has developed a very personal sound on guitar but musically he's a tough guy to pin down, playing everything from pure, noisy free improvisation to pure rock & roll. Fortunately, Cline has no interest in being pinned down, as the newest album from the Nels Cline Singers clearly shows. On Draw Breath, Cline and company (Devin Hoff on bass and Scott Amendola on drums and live electronics) shift gears stylistically on virtually every track (sometimes within the same track), highlighting Cline's singular guitar skills in a variety of contexts. "Caved-In Heart Blues" is a slow and largely acoustic blues with plenty of open space, although electric guitar and electronics surface briefly towards the end. "Attempted" starts in more bop flavored territory but gradually gets more aggressive and noisy before moving back to bop. Despite the arco bass solo, "Confection" is straight-up rock & roll. "An Evening at Pops'" has lots of guitar and effects, noise and more arco bass alternating with Amendola unleashing his inner Rashied Ali before they latch onto an ultra-heavy, super-sludgy riff then off into a slightly queasy ambience. "The Angel of Angels" is absolutely gorgeous, with acoustic pinnings and subtle electric swells that almost sound like pedal steel. The two "Recognize" tracks are pretty acoustic ballads while "Mixed Message" starts out as a barn-burner then devolves into squiggly electronics, delays and bass before a rock riff kicks it back up for a furious finish. Wilco compadre Glenn Kotche joins the fun on percussion and glockenspiel for the closer, "Squirrel of God." As a guitarist, Nels Cline is as restless as he is talented, and both those qualities are on full display on Draw Breath.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard