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Nels Cline / Vinny Golia - The Entire Time

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Artist: Nels Cline / Vinny Golia

Album: The Entire Time

Label: Nine Winds

Review date: Oct. 25, 2004

Yes, it’s true: though they've been playing as a duo for 30 years, Vinny Golia and Nels Cline have never released a duo recording. Golia plays just about every member of the woodwind family there is – from ocarina to the elephantine Tubax – while Cline is one of the most prodigious and creative guitarists around, bringing his unmistakable tone and aesthetic to an absurd range of projects, from Mike Watt and Wilco to Carla Bozulich’s Red Headed Stranger tribute to his own improv trios or the occasional free slugfest with Gregg Bendian. You wanna play six degrees of musical separation? Nels is the linchpin who can get you from Julius Hemphill to the Stooges in three easy steps!

As a longtime fan of the Vinny Golia Quintet – whose manic energy, insane chops workouts, and fascinatingly overgrown compositions suit these gentlemen’s skills to a tee – I was initially a bit surprised to find that these duets are primarily restrained and even somewhat moody. Absent from much of this music is the trademark angular propulsion I’d expected. But is this good or bad? Well, it’s mostly just fine, although I must confess the results aren’t quite so memorable. For one thing, this is a very long disc that occasionally loses focus: it’s not just that the opening “Divining” and the closing “Destination Deeth” are overly long and ramble to a baffling number of musical places, it’s also that the album covers so many different territories that it oddly seems to lack an identity. Perhaps this is because each player seems hell bent on using as many instruments as possible – Golia employs his usually battery of reeds but also brings along a stritch (which he uses in some appropriate double-horn madness on “Opus de Kirkus,” a tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk) and the Asian dzi (which combines with Cline’s steel string guitar for the weird slice of exotica “Tiny Boxes Speak Her Name”), while Cline loads up on the pedals and electronics even as he ropes in the 12-string, nylon string, steel string, and baritone guitars.

Who knows? Some might dig the ceaseless variety, from chunky rhythmic pieces like “Smooth Surface, the Canals” (whose two performances here occasionally gesture towards Shakti, of all things) to the sweet acoustic pastoralism of “City Snow Stories” or “Fond Rememberances of Luther Talbot” (which hearken back to the pair’s old Quartet Music recordings in the late 1970s and early 1980s), all the way to howling electricity and multiphonics that crop up regularly throughout these pieces. But no matter how much I love these guys, there’s something about The Entire Time that doesn't quite hold together.

By Jason Bivins

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