CUP

Spinning Creature
(Northern Spy)

The first album by CUP, the duo of guitarist Nels Cline and keyboardist-producer Yuka C. Honda, opens with a meditative, raga-esque vibe. Airy bamboo flutes and sitar-like guitar patterns flutter and quietly spill out. As synth patter opens up, Cline chants the titular phrase, “every moment,” projecting a Zen-like center from which he extrapolates in effects-heavy waves over gently twinkling bells. But the recording doesn’t cling to such tranquility, adding percolating electronic beats, needling guitar lines and swells of billowing harmony in shifting combinations. Both musicians are sublimely versatile and skilled: Cline a jazz veteran, whose reputation has been stoked by his endlessly imaginative work in Wilco, and Honda, who made her mark in Cibo Matto. Together, the married couple delivers moody art-pop rich in ambience and texture, but a little short on songcraft. Still, the exploratory, rock-fueled solo Cline drops on the Bowie-esque “Don’t Move” is priceless. And the post-bossa framework of the title track, with two layers of sashaying acoustic guitar and subdued tandem singing, hints at what the duo is capable of when they spend a bit more time on songwriting to give their exquisite sound arsenal a more memorable container.