Huntsville + Yuka Honda, Nels Cline, Darin Gray & Glenn Kotche

Bow Shoulder
Hubro HUBRO CD 2620

Recorded in 2010, but not released until now, Bow Shoulder is the product of mutual admiration for each others’ inventive playing by member of Norway’s Huntsville – string player Ivar Grydeland, bassist Tonny Kluften and percussionist Ingar Zach – with two members of Wilco – guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Glenn Kotche – plus Chicago bassist Darin Gray and Cibo Matto keyboardist Yuka Honda.

Purely improvised, the four tracks are much more than merely adding together familiar sound tropes from each musician. Vibrations, drones, electronic whizzes, percussion clouts and unexpected stroked augmentation produce an enticing mix that’s solid, stirring and ultimately specific. As string textures undulate, fluid expression bends to meet every eventuality. Meanwhile relaxed folksy strums arise from the pedal steel, as banjo twangs, concentrated 12-string guitar energy and thin plinks that suggest the Chinese duxianqin. While a track like “Side Wind” is more rhythmic than the others, keyboard undulation and waves of programmed electronics maintain a bonding tone that links the sound to jam bands rather than jam sessions. But the Rock-ambient reflections don’t simplify the interface into psychedelic sludge. Preventing sameness and adding differently pitched timbres as tracks move from allegro to presto, and tones augment and descend are particular instance of slurred fingering and ringing chords from the guitarists, tabla pops, metallic echoes and Mylar rubs from the percussionists and fluid bass underscoring. Breaking away from the undifferentiated, squirming sound mass which defines earlier tracks, the concluding “The Unshot” mercurially vamps back and forth between a blend of country-styled string echoes and resonating percussion clacks to reach an unshackled dissolve.

More than a Huntsville record, more than a Wilco disc and with more timbral sophistication that any exercise in ambient drone, the CD is likely to appeal to any or all of those who follow these musical designations.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Side Wind 2. Higher 3. Lower 4. The Unshot

Personnel: Yuka Honda (keyboards); Ivar Grydeland (acoustic, pedal steel guitars, banjo, electronics); Nels Cline (guitar, effects); Tonny Kluften (electric bass); Darin Gray (bass, preparations); Glenn Kotche (drums, percussion, electronics); Ingar Zach: percussion, tabla machine, drone commander)