Elliott Sharp: Err Guitar

Don Phipps By

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Elliott Sharp: Err Guitar
Is this music from another world? Dense, complex, innovative, and chock full of improvisation, Elliott Sharp's Err Guitar seeks to establish a whole new vocabulary for the instrument. Joined by the significant guitarist Mary Halvorson and the always willing to experiment Marc Ribot, Sharp elevates the guitar trio using Stockhausen-like effects that blur rhythm and sound—offering a unique perspective on the language of the guitar and not just its musical sensitivities. All three guitarists contribute compositionally to the effort.

The sound-play is both oddly discombobulated yet holds together. While complex, the music created is not intimidating or overpowering—just absorbing -and more importantly, penetrating. Guitars are used to forge sounds. Like a Rauschenberg silkscreen, these disparate sounds are patchworked together, but not haphazardly. Instead, the pieces speak to Sharp's formal aesthetics while retaining the spontaneous nature of improvisation.

Noteworthy are the Sharp/Halvorson "Sequola Part 1"and "Sequola Part 2." Both tracks feature sounds that run from the energetic to the eerie. "Sequola Part 2" even fashions a guitar effect that sounds oddly like a thumb piano. The guitars bark, growl, swipe, and pick—a veritable call to the wild.

Sharp/Ribot offer up another interesting exploration in "Sinistre," with its eerie legato notes suspended like bridges over deep canyons which sift into a slow motion high-speed drive down David Lynch's Lost Highway.

The Sharp/Halvorson composition "Shredding Light" suggests a photon acting as both wave and particle spinning along some unknown vertex. This evolves into a sound not unlike a herd of buffalo racing across a distant plain.

The real gem of this offering is the last track, Sharp's composition "Kernel Panic," with its race car careening like a movie car chase sound while all around are other sounds that could populate any sci fi movie offering.

The thrill of this music is in its explosive creativity. After all, there's a reason Sharp won the 2015 Berlin Prize in Musical Composition. His compositions reach every nook and cranny of sound possible on the guitar, and Halvorson and Ribot, who also contribute compositions, are right there with him. This is certainly music for the head if not the soul, and the brain, upon listening, will develop new wrinkles.

Track Listing

Blindspot; The Ship I Am On; Wobbly; Shredding Light; Sinistre; I’m Gonna Party Like It’s 1988; Sequola Pt. 1; Sequola Pt. 2; Oronym; Sea Buzz; Nektone; Kernel Panic.


Elliott Sharp: guitar; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Marc Ribot: guitar.

Album information

Title: Err Guitar | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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