Although Cline makes all the noises himself, Coward avoids the sparseness one might expect from a solo record. The music is rich and full, as Cline layers various guitar sounds over electronically sculpted textures and rhythms.
The opening track, “Epiphyllum,” is a sustained wall of sound; a drone speckled with electronic fuzz and rich with pitches lurking just above the threshold of audibility. Listening intently is almost sure to induce a meditative state. The piece was probably placed strategically in the track list to set up the ear for what follows.
The steel string guitar on “Prayer Wheel” hints at a folk and country music aesthetic. Its melodies are constructed over arpeggiated chords bound to a hypnotic pulse. The following track, “Thurston County,” begins with an unraveled series of blips and sighs, gradually reined into a melody that undulates freely above sweeping chords. A steady groove emerges timidly and quickly gains confidence, then builds to a climax that nudges against rock music.
Each piece on Coward has a story of its own, and the album covers great lengths of musical territory. Improvised sections, as well as those reminiscent of atonal 20th century classical music, are used to express capriciousness, playfulness, and general spontaneity. Plaintive, lamenting sections are conveyed with simple folk music harmonies. Electronic collages establish a feeling of disorientation. Cline uses musical styles as tools for expression.
February 10th, 2009 on Cryptogramophone Records
- Nels Cline - acoustic and electric guitars, lap steel guitar, autoharp, Dobro, Marxophone, ukulele, zither, sruti boxes, Megamouth, Korg Kaossilator, Quintronics Drum Buddy, various loops and effects
- Prayer Wheel
- Thurston County
- The Androgyne
- Rod Poole's Gradual Ascent to Heaven
- The Divine Homegirl
- X Change(s)
- The Nomad's Home
- ONAN Suite:
- Lord & Lady
- Dreams in the Mirror
- Interruption (Onan's Psychedelic Breakdown)
- The Liberator