ELLIOTT SHARP

THE VELOCITY OF HUE

EMANEM 4098

BUY here


 

ELLIOTT SHARP solo acoustic guitar
 

1 - THE VELOCITY OF HUE - 1:31
2 - THE SKEPTIC - 4:20
3 - ANAMNESIA - 5:50
4 - KURU - 2:17
5 - THE FACE OF ANOTHER - 2:44
6 - BEAKS AND BEANS - 6:17
7 - NEBEL - 5:21
8 - EUWRECKA - 8:17
9 - ICONTACT - 4:14
10 - POLYTOPE - 3:29
11 - CIRCADIA - 8:42
12 - GAGERS AND GAN - 2:33
13 - RECOGNITION - 7:00
14 - OTOLITH - 5:27

Digital studio recordings made in New York City
by Elliott Sharp - 2003 June
Total time 68:34

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

Most of us electric guitarists find solo acoustic sets a bit...risky. In VELOCITY OF HUE, Elliott Sharp takes that risk, walks the mean tracks armed with neither the bludgeon of amplication nor the safety net of through-composed set pieces.

The resulting acoustic beauty - VELOCITY OF HUE - may seem surprising to some who remember the electronic excess of early Carbon. But not that surprising. Elliott's music, then and now, is about the search for the resonant melody, what talmudists might have called the 'melody of fire'. The abstract nature of the compositions - melodic material to play with, techniques to use, strategies to follow, moods to elaborate - are then and now an attempt to leave the musician space to find the ‘necessary’ melody. The refusal to write a through-composed melody creates a strategic absence, forcing the musician to find it in the moment.

The material Elliott works with on this CD follows his focus of the last 30+ years: composition and improvisation inspired by the nature of the guitar itself (not to mention sound itself and the algorithms of the rest of the natural world) filtered through a love of country blues guitar and Central Asian musics.

But Elliott neither fuses nor genre hops. Rather than an act of fusion, VELOCITY feels like the discovery/invention of a 'place' of common origin, some lost delta in whose bars electronic composers have always jammed with Blind Willie Johnson and Tuvan throat singers - a meeting-place/collision-site of all traditions with the acoustic properties/limitations of the instruments which express them.

These are strong ideas, and Elliott realises them with amazing technique and sensitivity. The solo acoustic format has highlighted a sense of subtlety and nuance in his playing that it’s easy to miss in ensembles larger and louder.

It’s a beautiful record.

MARC RIBOT (2003)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"Folks, this is an amazing exhibition! Throughout these fourteen pieces, the guitarist morphs steely edged blues motifs with ringing harmonics, split tones and slithery lead lines. Essentially, Sharp imprints a personalised touch here.

One would be hard pressed to stringently categorise the avenues Sharp pursues. At times, he merges walking blues lines with complexly integrated chord progressions. However, the artist seamlessly toggles between loose grooves, folk, avant-garde improvisation, and perhaps a surrealist-like nod to Americana style roots music. Augmented by this guitar's silvery sound and organic tone, Sharp is apt to make it purr like a cat, or take it through a stress test via a sequence of unbelievably fast circular movements. On the piece titled Euwrecka, he conjures up the exhilaration and discipline of perhaps driving a race car through sharp turns at high speeds. Either way, Sharp's performances throughout this fascinating program, seem to have been dictated by some sort of divine intervention. (Feverishly recommended…)"

GLENN ASTARITA - JAZZ REVIEW 2004

"Although this music has a calm centre, it is also has a mesmerising aura of swirling spirits, a harp-like weaving with extremely intricate picking. There are moments when it sounds as if Elliott's fingers are about to get tangled up, truly astonishing dexterity! Elliott adds some magic by using an e-bow to get those strings to hum or drone with a haunting, hypnotic vibe. What is wonderful about this CD is that it sounds different from any other acoustic guitar offering I've ever encountered, so for over an hour Mr. Sharp transports us to his own enchanting world and that, my friends, is a great thing and certainly no small feat."

DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY 2004

"On first contact with this album, two surprises. One: Elliott Sharp on an Emanem CD. This free improv label is known for its roaster of mostly European artists. So to see such a rambunctious American with a rock and blues background on the label is rather unusual. Two: the 14 tracks are all solo improvisations on (gasp!) acoustic guitar. But the shock is pretty easy to get over with once you hit the 'play' button. Sharp has tailored three handfuls of short virtuoso pieces (only four of them cross over the 5-minute mark) that draw from the Blues, the folk finger-picking tradition (Leo Kottke), East-Asian playing (I hear a lot of Chinese traditional pipa music in these fast cyclical motifs), and something indescribable that is pure Sharp. Emanem has released solo acoustic guitar albums before, by Derek Bailey, John Russell, and Roger Smith. This one is very different and could appeal to a considerably larger audience, because, through all the extended techniques and improvisation, the music remains strongly anchored in the Blues. It has that distinctive modal feel and the longing melodies that keep you coming back to it. Highlights include the fast-paced The Skeptic, the short but touching The Face of Another, and Recognition where Sharp plays his modified Godin Duel Multiac bottleneck-style. Definitely not what you¹d expect from either Sharp or Emanem, THE VELOCITY OF HUE is like opening a present you thought you had guessed; after the short disappointment of not finding what you expected in the box comes the thrill of realising it¹s much better."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2003

"VELOCITY's short, soft improvisations for solo acoustic guitar draw equally upon Blind Willie Johnson, John Fahey, and string-playing traditions from Korea, Africa, and India. Sharp employs a gorgeous warm-toned instrument modified with a Dobro bridge, which affords him still more string to bend.

Even stripped down, his music is anything but simple. On tracks such as The Face Of Another and Nebel, he combines finger picking and delicate rubbing with slide and e-bow: Deep, resonant sustained notes sing out elegantly over tactile chirps and pings. Euwrecka spins out like an incandescent pinwheel, sending tiny harmonic sparks flying into the ether.

While it may seem like a radical departure at first, VELOCITY ultimately remains true to Sharp's career long investigation into the science of sound. If much of his previous work has found beauty in extremes of intensity, he reverses course here, creating a cumulative intensity from extremes of beauty."

STEVE SMITH - TIME OUT 2004

"Music made with brain, heart, sweat and saliva. Never wasting a note, always in full control, Elliott Sharp stamps his supremacy with an 'avant-blues' masterpiece where intelligence, audacity and fingerstretching know no boundaries. The New Yorker's highly individual style is a total pleasure even for a newcomer; his work on the fingerboard maintains a repetitive, almost ritual form resulting both accessible and extremely logical in his utter abandon of any six-stringed formula. Elliott's nimble lines fit nicely in many contexts, surprising listeners in more than one occasion while avoiding most of nearsighted guitarists' many and one cliché. I'm convinced THE VELOCITY OF HUE is one of the overall best Emanem releases. Elliott Sharp never ceases amazing me with his genius."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2003

"Over the years, Elliott Sharp's playing and compositional character have been called many things, but rarely, 'gently beautiful'. THE VELOCITY OF HUE offers fourteen pieces for acoustic guitar that most decidedly fall under that description. Combining improvisation with distinct underlying motifs, the set draws upon blues idioms, fingerpicking, and the slowly unfurling landscape of Asian musics. With half the pieces in the two to four minute range, Sharp deftly establishes the varied moods from the outset, making for an album the flows like a set of interlocked, but distinctly different vignettes. As the chimed opening chords of The Skeptic give way to quietly furious melodic runs it sounds like a dinner party being catered in tandem by Leo Kottke and Fred Frith. The full power of Sharp's modified Godin Duel Multiac instrument are heard on Anamesia (along with a host of other tracks), as droning notes resonate and bottleneck-style articulations rattle and fray with idiosyncratic beauty - quite often the best kind of beauty there is."

DAVID GREENBERGER - SIGNAL TO NOISE 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 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 frame 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 favoured 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. This is a rich, enjoyable recording."

JASON BIVINS - DUSTED 2004

"Elliott Sharp is the definitive Downtown New York musician. Equally at home free improvising with John Zorn, playing down home dirty blues with veteran guitarist Hubert Sumlin or writing for string quartets, he's been one of the most hardworking yet maybe undersung talents on the scene. Having said that, Sharp's music's always left me a bit cold; maybe it's a consequence of the genre-hopping he's managed so expertly, but there's never seemed to be an identifiable voice that glued all these things together.

Here he's alone with an acoustic guitar, still displaying a kaleidoscopic range of references, though the intimacy of his method makes this the most personal record I've heard from him. Blues picking and plangent folky bits straight out of Bert Jansch or Mike Bloomfield rub up against more abstract explorations on 14 short pieces. While on electric guitar Sharp often seems to be content to trot out avant rock hysterics through a haze of distortion, the acoustic instrument reveals a player of impressive technique and great sensitivity to the moment. Euwrecka is a fantastically focussed display of stamina; the guitarist hammers his way through a sequence of minimalist riffage with hypnotic results.

Elsewhere Sharp conjures up a resonant, desolate strain of abstract blues which imagines a collision between the dustbowl atmospherics of Ry Cooder's PARIS, TEXAS and the fragile beauties of Hans Reichel's FMP records. The ever reliable Emanem are to be congratulated for putting out a record that's a bit of a departure for them and one which for me anyway, confirms Sharp as a major improvising talent. Worth a listen."

PETER MARSH - BBC 2003

"This is an album of solo acoustic guitar. Elliott Sharp by habit and intellectual compulsion has grasped all the expectations such a bare description evokes and confronted and confounded them. Steel guitar blues stands at a pole of gritty hard won authenticity utterly inimical to the art music schoolings of someone like Elliott Sharp. Bluesmen learn their lessons from life, not from Morton Feldman. These recordings could fall into one of two traps. The virtuoso Sharp could merely reproduce and inhabit the well-established clichés we have learnt from moody soundtracks to cowboy dramas, desert road movies, and lazy advertising. Alternately he could deconstruct, subvert or satirise the same clichés by way of the same virtuosity. If all you want is to see one man play his guitar you would be pleased - even if far too easily. VELOCITY OF HUE, therefore, is all the more wondrous for transcending such crowd-pleasing follies.

While Sharp's knowledge of global musics must inform his playing, the overall effect is of an intrinsically American, intrinsically blues, and specifically guitar derived, music. The playing is elegiac, lyrical and passionate, and uses several extended techniques of finger-tapping, harmonics and fretboard noise as well as a subtle sinuous acoustic feedback to extend notes at will. Few other players have managed to liberate the language of steel blues so completely - one is reminded of Leo Kottke's more surreal passages. A track like Icontact slides and smoulders, constantly unstable, and seeking resolve, while the bright opening drone of Euwrecka evolves into a skittering lattice of brittle energy and the delicate harmonics of Otolith glister like gold dust waiting to be panned out of a desert creek. Most of all, though, the music has an extraordinary saturated living colour, as the title track (and its title) Velocity Of Hue so succinctly suggest."

NICK SOUTHGATE - THE WIRE 2003

"Sharp's first album of acoustic solos on self-modified 'hyperreal' acoustic guitar is something of an oddity for a label that has built its reputation as a stable of Brit Improv. Sharp added a Dobro bridge to enable koto-like note bending, and he adds a little E-bow every now and then for extra sustain. Its mix of Hans Reichel-style guitar extensions, blues, Far Eastern influences and Sharp's furious interlocking hammer-on patterning rightly won warm praise."

PHIL ENGLAND - THE WIRE 2005

"This acoustic guitar outing is a surprisingly convincing change of pace for Elliott Sharp, who has staked out an important niche as an experimental free-improvisation/post-punk slayer of dragons, often with his group Carbon. I have to admit I was skeptical: Would this be some sort of sell-out. the 'I can do acoustic, too,' gig, quiet and too sweet? Sharp has rarely, it ever, displayed that side before, but still, if he did so he would not be the first to change course mid-stream and pursue more accessible avenues. Of course, you wouldn't expect that from the uncompromising Emanem label, which has built its reputation on adulterated free improvisation. Well, I'm glad to report that Elliott Sharp doesn't give in an inch. Not only that, but many are likely to enjoy listening to this at least as much as his other non-acoustic work, in many cases more so. For one thing, there is more diversity. Without electronics to distract, you may not have realized how wide-ranging Sharp's influences are, from Eastern meditative to the Blues, to hard rock to Jazz-drenched melodic to hard-core free improvisation. Here they are out in the open, and the technical virtuosity impresses mightily. This is an eminently listenable album, full of Sharp surprises, and a treat to hear."

STEVEN LOEWY - CADENCE 2004

"Elliott Sharp's THE VELOCITY OF HUE is an acoustic guitar album that avoids the clichés of the genre. Sharp is better known as an incendiary electric guitarist, combining good technique with a dangerous streak. The more domestic, acoustic instrument is not the easiest vehicle for forceful invective. Sharp's achievement on this completely solo project is to find a new palette of sounds and gestures that hint at other areas of music - blues, flamenco, South American, contemporary classical - while staying within his own distinctively weird sound world. And if you're into quantity, there's nearly 70 minutes of rippling solo Sharp to wallow in."

JOHN L WALTERS - THE GUARDIAN 2003

"Listeners who know Sharp as an electric guitarist will be introduced to another aspect of his musicality on VELOCITY OF HUE. Some of the approaches employed on this fine set of acoustic solos can be compared in a general way to some of Henry Kaiser's work. Both guitarists have worked largely in areas originally indicated by Derek Bailey and also have an affinity for the post-John Fahey acoustic approach, though this is less obvious in Elliott's case than in Henry's. There are important differences of course, starting with what each player has learned from the above-named sources and continuing with the kind of development that each generally settles into. Here Sharp uses techniques and ideas from a variety of sources, from Delta Blues players to Central Asian traditions to modern European developments, in creating a convincing personal language. VELOCITY represents an important piece of the Sharp oeuvre."

DUCK BAKER - CODA 2004

 

Return to Emanem home page or go to CD releases or musicians