Wilco guitar giant Nels Cline’s commanding electric-jazz trio makes smart music you don’t have to think about. The group’s new LP (its fifth), Macroscope, includes a sensual slow jam (“Red Before Orange”); a piece that moves from psychedelic funk into a loud yet pensive meditation (“Seven Zed Heaven”); and, on “The Wedding Band,” the juxtaposition of Cline’s frightening, otherworldly guitar and the propulsive percussion of Cyro Baptista and Josh Jones. These songs have layers, and they’re thoughtful, but there are no crazy time signatures to count, no big statements to decipher. Like Sly Stone, this trio sings a simple song: There is a bit of wordless vocalization here and there, but, despite the band name, no conventional lead singing.
It’s also worth noting that, though Cline is undoubtedly one of the finest six-stringers around, Macroscope is the furthest thing from a mere collection of mind-bending guitar solos. The leader’s improv skills are on display, but the emphasis is on the band and the tunes. As its name implies, Macroscope is a big-picture kind of record.—Brad Farberman