Dusted Reviews

Elliott Sharp - The Velocity of Hue

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Elliott Sharp

Album: The Velocity of Hue

Label: Emanem

Review date: Feb. 8, 2004

An album of all-acoustic solo guitar improvisations might not be the most surprising thing these days, but when you notice that it’s downtown demigod Elliott Sharp featured on this recording (an Emanem disc, no less!) your eyebrows can’t help but raise a bit. Can the electronics freakery Sharp is known for in bands like Carbon and Terraplane yield a sensibility supple and intelligent enough to sustain such a demanding performance? Can Sharp hone and focus his almost bafflingly diverse compositional and improvisational interests, given to polytonality and polymetric explosions of Mandelbrot-like complexity? On the strength of this recording, I’d say he absolutely can. With a ready-made instrument – he uses an acoustic modified with a Dobro bridge to give him more range for using extended techniques – Sharp sets about confounding expectations in the most wondrous fashion.

Sharp has always been a player of impressive – at times devastating – technique. And the opening tracks of this disc display this in a no-holds-barred display of frenetic, finger-picking which – like some mutant hybrid of John Fahey and Olaf Rupp – almost spins out of control with its velocity. The crisp steel strings ring out, each note darting forth with a crystalline clarity. Sharp sometimes constructs cascading double-helix lines that snake around you, and elsewhere he cranks out quicksilver arpeggios. And, in one of the record’s most impressive performances, one piece features him using his finger-picking abilities to riff on the Wes Montgomery tradition: Sharp plucks out chords at warp speed (sometimes with a ringing choral effect that suggests a 12-string guitar), using these to fram more delicate, reeling spirals of notes. What impresses is not simply the technique (which is impressive), nor the clarity of thought (ditto), but the cumulative structure of the pieces (often built around an evident lyricism). In some sense, this structured lyricism is a bit more evident when Sharp resorts to another of his favored devices, which finds him using an ebow and Shakti-like tapping on the bridge to create hypnotic one-man ragas. As lush, resonant tones float, Sharp sometimes transforms the drone itself into the line, and sometimes creates counterlines of sharp metallic clarity (with pitch-bending and overtones achieved by precise finger hammering). This achieves an effect very similar to that on Hans Reichel’s Bonobo Beach.

And every so often, not surprisingly for those who know Sharp’s history, an earthy blues lick creeps in or there is a deft use of a slide (or some other glissando device). Only rarely does it sound like some preparation has been used on the instrumentation – with lots of flatted or muted tapping which suggest something within, between, or atop the strings – and on these rare occasions Sharp gets a nice blend of ringing harmonics/overtones and damped blocky sounds. Unlike a lot of solo improve albums, the nearly 70 minute running time doesn’t drag on; it’s captivating from start to finish. And while it won’t get me trading in my copy of The Death of the Rare Bird Ymir, this is a rich, enjoyable recording.

By Jason Bivins

Read More

View all articles by Jason Bivins

Find out more about Emanem

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.