Elliott Sharp – Octal: Book One (CFG 002)
Elliott Sharp – Concert in Dachau
Guitarist Elliott Sharp adds two more entries to his lengthy and diverse discography with these solo discs. Both are chock full of his customary timbral innovation and rhythmic multiplicity.
Concert in Dachau is really magical, as much a process as a series of four long-form pieces. Sharp moves, ever so gradually, from earthy blues-inflected drones into less traditional territory and back again. The whole concert is in, or centered on, D minor, but the encore jumps unceremoniously into a joyful blues romp in E flat. Sharp’s use of electronics is masterly, never overly obtrusive and always birthing interesting timbres. At one point, he’s laying strange counterpoint down over some backwards chatter of his own making and the effect is mysterious and fun. Another vignette finds him manipulating overtone drones and achieving disconcerting stillness. The slide-drenched stream-of-consciousness encore is worth the price of admission, but the rest of the disc shows a master improviser at work.
Octal is, in large part, a more percussive affair, excepting the second track, which is another exercise in multivalent Ebo-driven drone. For the manic percussion that Sharp executes so well, just check out the astonishing “Antitop and Charm”; it roils and bubbles with precision and muscular grace. The pieces are fairly brief and it is as if Sharp’s imagination is in overdrive in each one… so many and disparate are the ideas that pack each moment.
The concert disc, an inventive study in long-form expression, seems to unfold more easily, somehow with a greater sense of organicism. The guitarbass Sharp plays on Octal gives him the chance to demonstrate a quite different, but equally diverse palette of sounds and techniques and there’s no shortage of timbral interest. Either disc would make a fine introduction to the work of this versatile artist.