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For two relatively similar instruments, the guitar and the viola have very different sounds. At least, that is, until put in the hands of Elliott Sharp and Charlotte Hug. In the wonderful cacophony of their duo record pi:k, the listener is forced to stop and think, "OK, what do these instruments sound like?" to sort out who's doing what. It's not actually that it's hard to tell them apart, but the tight recording and the rainstorm of plucked strings make for a fun bit of confusion; it's a quick and crazy disc of improvisations and it's fun to hear the pair each usually given to more structured work let loose in a free-for-all. There may actually have been a ghost present during the recording of the first half: guitar, fiddle and some gremlin in between.
If the first half were a little shorter, pi:k would be a great candidate for LP release. What would be side one is all acoustic, recorded in 2004 by Sharp in his East Village studio and on side two the electronics sneak in. The second half was recorded at a 2005 concert in Hug's native Switzerland and is more what would be expected from the two: loud tones and long drones with fragmented melodies trying to chop their way through.
Where pi:k obscures the instruments' sounds, guitarist Simone Massaron's Breaking News (with Sharp on electric and lap steel) is all about the six-string's sound. The album quadrangulates quite easily within Sharp's presence, a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover and an original piece called "Albert Meets Nels" (presumably referencing Ayler and Cline). This is swamp skronk, the sort of Downtown rock improv that seems to flourish more outside New York nowadays. The Italian guitarist is some 20 years Sharp's junior and demonstrates a clear love for the NYC roots of bands like Carbon, Power Tools and The President. His band (sax, bass and drums) play it well, falling more on the rock than the experimental side and his sounds overlap heavily with Sharp's here. It's not quite anything new, but still a fun record.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Tread Grapes; Another Yellow Swallow; Kvalster; Take it on the Bridge; Quick Bright ThingCome to Confusion; Orbiter; Granule; Mineralia; Incidental Atrocity; On the Skew; Stay in Line; Alight ID; De-scale; Endland and Heyokas.
Personnel: Elliott Sharp: guitars, electronics; Charlotte Hug: viola, electronics.
Tracks: Breaking News; Albert Meets Nels; Louisiana Rain; Plick Plick; The Kid; Run Through The Jungle; Bumper To Bumper; Brain Washed; Ruth's Tale
Personnel: Simone Massaron: fretless electric guitar; Elliott Sharp: electric guitar; Daniele Cavallanti: tenor sax; Steve Piccolo: bass; Tiziano Tononi: drums.