Elliott Sharp with Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot

ERR Guitar
Intakt CD 281

By Ken Waxman

Composer, bandleader, multi-instrumentalist, Elliott Sharp is musician hard to classify with equal proficiency in blues-rock, improvisation and New music. Here he concentrates on his main instrument, the guitar, on a dozen solos, duos and trio with fellow pickers Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot. Oddly enough, Sharp and Ribot, who specialize in more agitated sounds, both turn almost folksy in duets on “Wobbly”, “Sinistre” and “Oronym”. Although their chess game-like moves are both subtle and spiky on “Sinistre”, it’s the last track which is most distinctive. Here one guitarist’s legato finger-picking tries to surmount the other’s canine yapping-like plucked onslaughts until relaxed string undulations are replaced by a multiplicity of crying buzzes. Blanketing drones dominate the three Halvorson duets, with the strokes on “Shredding Light”so thin they break into electronic flanges. Slurred fingering and guitar neck taps enliven both parts of “Sequola”, although a blanket of buzzes can’t disguise intricate dual connections.

Sharp’s solo work is the most representative though. “Nektone” for instance swiftly unites Delta bottleneck picking and outer-space-like multiphonics without fissure. Meanwhile “Kernel Panic” knits together so many passing chords that it’s almost opaque. Then suddenly with no hint of overdubbing, there seems to be two guitar lines travelling in opposite directions, one with rumbling organ-like ostinato; the other snapping out arena sized distortion. That he manages to tame these opposites into a reassuring ending that is true to narrative, logical and conclusive is another tribute to Sharp’s multi-talents.

-For The Whole Note October 2017