Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields – Afiadacampos

(Neos Jazz)

Both proven improvising guitarists and composers, two lucid cerebrums shining under the spotlight in the digipak’s inside photo, Sharp and Fields present the second recorded chapter of an ongoing partnership after Scharfefelder on Clean Feed. Armed with, respectively, a 1985 Thomas Reg’n and a 1998 Collings OM-2H — hold your drooling, jealous handlers of cheap Taiwanese imitations — the comrades cancel the obnoxious smell of scalar mustiness and rubber-nose electric tones completely, also sharing the compositional duties (five tracks are by E#, four by SF).

Don’t let the “compositional” term fool you, though. There’s a lot of improvisation in the 57 minutes of Afiadacampos — and, for the large part, of the finely structured kind. As the Chicagoan himself puts it, the pair is “interested in fuzzing up relationships between written and improvised sounds, rejecting the free-jazz model in which heads are matched with unrelated blowing”. Not a truer word: even when the instruments are tuned according to specific ratios (as in “Earth Ecology”) a logical sense underlies the interplay, clouds of hovering harmonics fighting first, revealing splendid rainbows later. This writer made the ultimate test, abandoning the listening room to hear how the adjacent partials were received at a distance; there was more harmony in what was caught by the ears at that moment than in an archetypal duet. That peculiar synchronization is the fruit of shrewdly elicited resonant interferences, to which a reactive listener should adapt instead of remaining mouth agape, waiting for the habitual dose of Superlocrian-spiced sticky molasses and chordal clichés.

The acoustic timbres superb, the percussive aspect explored through tapping on necks and bodies, nicely coarse eBowed drones and dented strings (“Delta Delta”) and bionic rasgueados altering the values in the commonly intended aesthetic scale; each piece offers at least a couple of intriguing facets that Sharp and Fields investigate and exploit implacably. Their work convinces because the approach is thorough and resolute, not characterized by the grasshopper-like futility of sterile digital virtuosity. This might be one of the best guitar albums of 2010, worthy of being played loud and often. The house will be thankful.




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