Vignes – parla di Vignes

Guitarist Nels Cline is so recognized as a force in contemporary music because he’s not really a “force”. In other words, his considerable technique, taste and penchant for cross-genre blurs don’t always take the spotlight.

The Acoustic Guitar Trio is more talked about than heard, recast in light and returning to regular mention following the untimely 2007 death of Rod Poole, the guitar wizard, cultural maven and just-intonation improviser. The trio recorded one album that was released in 2002 on Incus and until now, that was all the record-buying public had. Vignes was taped in 2003 at LA’s Downtown Playhouse and the set consists of three collective improvisations on which the instruments are approached physically using techniques like playing behind the bridge, at the head, pattering the hollow body or bowing the strings. That said, the music contained here can be strikingly melodic even as it doesn’t follow traditional tunings or sounds one expects from the instruments. The opening improvisation begins with throaty alap, Cline and Poole stretching out huge chords on either side of McAuley’s muted flecks. A dustbowl raga starts to emerge, rhythmic minimalism and lush overtones painting a canvas that’s layered with sounds born of equal parts Robbie Basho and pianistic preparation. The trio hits a “new day dawning” overture about halfway, then waves subside into thwacks, stabs and rattles atop Poole’s repeating microtonal plink. It is safe to say that Vignes is a window onto a sound-world many have never thought possible and its balance of personalities and highly individual direction make it a paean for the three-sided whole.

Clifford Allen

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