By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The album's centerpiece is its half-hour title track, dedicated to film director Andrei Tarkovsky. Cline started as a visual artist; to get an idea of how that still affects his work, close your eyes as the long, rich tones swell and combine, and see if you don't experience a galaxy of cinematic colors, or even whole scenes from Solaris.
While Sparks Fly Upward trains the camera mostly on Cline the composer, Espiritu (Truemedia Jazzworks), his duo recording with drummer-vibraphonist Gregg Bendian, turns loose Cline the improviser, who has long been known to spin audiences on a finger all by himself. This CD, though, offered Cline a chance to extend an axis he'd established in Bendian's band Interzone, which features bassist Mark Dresser and both Cline brothers.
Those expecting formless drummer indulgence may get whiplash from sudden re-evaluation. Both Cline and Bendian are congenitally concerned with pitch, a factor that jumps out even from the rhythm-heavy two-kit energizer "Taproot." But when they're exploring the soul of metal -- not Black Sabbath, but the shiny kind you hit with a mallet -- on the nearly pulseless "Emerald Need Not Elaborate," "To the Door" and "Embers," the duo reveal a special kind of harmony where the blend of textures supercharges the blend of notes. It'll do funny things to your fillings.
Both recordings reflect the way Cline has always constructed his music -- though construct is too harsh a word. The changes, while often radical, occur naturally, like the views you encounter as you walk along a mountain path. Cline seems to clear a quiet place and allow music to come into it.
THAT'S THE CALM. BUT IT'S CLINE'S ASPIRATIONAL aspect that opens his spirituality to Western ears. As much as he may talk about disappearing, and however many vast stillnesses he may paint in sound, his music always vibrates with an audible struggle. Whether it's a hushed, busy rhythm underneath, or the way layered metallophones hit you like four cups of coffee, some element can't help suggesting a restless desire to attain an unnamed pinnacle. And you feel that when he arrives there, he finds humans, not gods.
Cline's human heaven covers a wide range. Americans such as Pharoah Sanders, Shelly Manne and Elvin Jones are in it; Cline used to carry drums for L.A. explorer Sonship Theus just to be around him. The '70s avantitudes of Frank Perry, Tony Oxley, Pierre Fauve and other Europeans -- "guys using industrial junk and broken cymbals and electronics and all" -- rang his bells hard. He loves to dive into the modern orchestral clouds of Toru Takemitsu. He describes an early encounter with Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time as "absolutely revelatory." And his first big hero was a tourist who's visiting town at the moment, Vincent van Gogh.
"Despite the incredibly exaggerated value put on his paintings in the most superficial way, they have an amazing vitality. This guy was a genius. And art is what makes life worth living."