CHRIS MURPHY: Luminous [KUFALA]

Most commonly associated with suggestively attired classical crossover artists and that tall dude from Dave Matthews Band, the electric violin doesn’t have the hippest of reputations. But add a host of mysterious effects pedals and high-profile guests Nels Cline, Mike Watt, Tim Rutili (Califone) and Tom Waits’ rhythm section, and Chris Murphy is clearly looking to redefine expectations for his instrument. You might be expecting a collection of moody, avant-garde instrumentals, but instead Murphy fills Luminous with song-oriented blues, folk and world-music structures. When taken with the violinist’s considerable bag of tricks, the results are frequently remarkable. Anchored by Watt’s big-bottomed thump, “Blues For Bukowski” gives Murphy’s sandpapered strings plenty of room to cut a menacing figure. Despite the presence of Cline (who contributes tastefully unobtrusive overdubs) on the title track, it’s Murphy who sounds most like a guitar hero, courtesy of some unholy blend of electronics and savvy bow work. But for all its sawblade-styled growl and occasional delicate textures, Luminous spreads itself too thin at 76 minutes, at times lapsing into a prosaic lyricism that leaves some songs better suited for background music. Whether best remedied through more dissonant explorations or even some lyrics, a little more darkness here would’ve been welcome. [www.kufala.com]

—Chris Barton