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Wilco members experiment with sound

March 01, 2007|Richard Cromelin | Times Staff Writer

THERE'S an experimental band tucked away inside Wilco, and during the lull before that acclaimed Chicago-based rock group releases its new album in April, it's out for a ride on its own.

Drummer Glenn Kotche released a solo album, "Mobile," last fall, and he's playing some of its surprisingly varied percussion pieces on a tour of small clubs. He's been joined for part of it by Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, a mainstay of L.A.'s jazz and avant-garde music worlds. Though Wilco is fairly experimental by the standards of mainstream, folk-rooted American bands, these two members' own work takes things into far more demanding areas.

Tuesday's show at the Echo marked Cline's last tour date, and he opened the two-hour performance with a 40-minute improvisation in which he generated sonic environments and then reacted to their demands, with meditative raga, jazzy solo and power-chord freak-out.

Cline was something to watch as he switched from one guitar to another, occasionally hitting one of the idle ones on his way past.

Emotionally involving as well as technically fascinating, it worked better as entertainment than Kotche's hour, though the drummer's amiable manner and sheer enthusiasm helped compensate for his narrower dynamics.

With far more than a standard drum kit, Kotche brought melodies and chiming elements to his pieces. The visceral appeal carried a set highlighted by his 15-minute depiction of the monkey army battle from the "Ramayana," with each character assigned a specific sound.

The two musicians then teamed for a collaboration they might have titled "Don't Try This at a Wilco Concert."

richard.cromelin@latimes .com

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