Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

ELLIOTT SHARP – Octal: Book One (CFG 002)

Always at the forefront of guitar experimentation, perennially interested in discovering the varying gradations of resonance and in unusual orchestrations at large, Elliott Sharp is the prototype of the forward-looking artist with feet remaining well-planted in his predecessors’ soil of achievement. His love of the blues equals the passion for mathematic formulas applied to a musical design and, in “Octal”, all of the above reaches the boiling point through eight exceptional tracks performed on a 8-string Koll electro-acoustic whose technical features are painstakingly described by E#, together with the approach to the recording, in liner notes that alone are worth of owning the album. So much for those “slap a microphone in front of the soundhole and strum your ass off” nonentities who keep plaguing the guitar world. The reference felt as nearest in this instance is “Quadrature” – one of Sharp’s veritable milestones – although the tuning in this first “book” is more or less standard (EADGBE with the additional bass strings tuned to low E and B; Sharp promises to analyze different tunings in future editions). The resplendent timbre of the Koll, in cooperation with the performer’s ability in the execution of pieces that are basically notated yet open to interpretation and improvisation, allows the music to assume shapes and reverberations rarely heard in a solo setting. Percussive factors, droning halos – also courtesy of a sapient eBow usage – and unpredictable combinations of harmonics are all part of the recipe, the sonic matter benefiting from the mixture of thoughtful restraint and multidirectional ears that the adoptive New Yorker demonstrates throughout, “tribally minimalist” arpeggio flurries sealing the whole. A classic case of “enough with words, where’s my VISA?”.

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