By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two musicians who have established themselves as both creative and life partners bring their new duo CUP to San Francisco Sunday when guitarist Nels Cline and keyboardist Yuka C. Honda play the Swedish American Hall.
While best known for his work with alternative rock band Wilco since becoming their lead guitarist in the 2000s, Cline was already a veteran musician with dozens of albums to his credit. Getting his start regularly performing with his twin brother Alex on drums, Cline would explore both experimental jazz and alternative rock during the ’80s and ’90s.
In addition to putting out solo albums and efforts recorded with a variety of his bands including the Nels Cline Singers and the Nels Cline Trio (later expanded to a quartet), Cline became a regular collaborator with a who’s who of rock luminaries including punk bass virtuoso Mike Watt (in Watt’s early ’90s band and the improv-oriented group Banyan with Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins) and Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore.
Watt was also the catalyst for connecting Cline with his current partner Honda, bringing them together in the band Floored by Four in 2010 that also included Honda’s former husband, drummer Dougie Brown (Honda and Cline would also work together as part of Yoko Ono’s reformed Plastic Ono Band that same year). Honda had played in a variety of New York City jazz and rock outfits in the late ’80s prior to meeting vocalist Miho Hatori and founding their experimental trip-hop duo Cibo Matto.
The group would issue two albums in the latter half of the ’90s, establishing themselves as a unique voice in alternative music before going on an extended hiatus. Honda would go on to record her first solo album, work with Sean Lennon and collaborate with an array of avant-garde NYC scene players including John Zorn, bassist Trevor Dunn and trumpet player Dave Douglas before reuniting with Hatori in a new line-up of Cibo Matto that would include contributions from Cline for the band’s third album Hotel Valentine in 2015.
Honda and Cline have also collaborated on each others recordings in addition to exploring improvisational ambient music as FIG., but last year the pair launched a new project under the moniker CUP. Recording improvisations for several days at the small Brooklyn basement studio of engineer and onetime Bay Area resident Eli Crews, Honda then takes that raw material home and crafts songs. The project’s debut recording Spinning Creature touches on bubbly electro pop and electronic dance as well as the couple’s more experimental leanings. The duo plays music from the recent album when they appear at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco Sunday night for this show co-produced by folkYEAH! and Noise Pop. A jazz trio made up of drummer Hamir Atwal, bassist Nate Brenner and clarinet player Ben Goldberg opens the evening.
CUP Featuring Yuka Honda and Nels Cline
Sunday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m. $20-$22.50
Swedish American Hall