Elliott Sharp – Momentum Anomaly

(New Atlantis)

Among Elliott Sharp’s principal influences stands writer Elias Canetti, whose Masse Und Macht (Crowds And Power) suggested a monolithic orchestral setting in the earlier stages of the New Yorker’s career. But Sharp’s mind definitely values an ingenious solitude, frequently more fruitful – not only musically speaking – than an aggregation of differently thinking brains. His compelling solo work on the electro-acoustic guitar has been documented by past releases on Zoar, Emanem and Clean Feed: cardinal chapters in an ever-dynamic search for new methods of instrumental expression.

In that sense, Momentum Anomaly is a release that should appeal to a number of carefully listening specimens. Practiced guitarists – provided that they’re not purists – will experience sensual ecstasy just by enjoying the richness of the harmonics coming from Sharp’s modified Godin Duet Multiac, enhanced by a peculiar tuning. The machine is thoroughly exploited: the fingers formulate fast patterns, reiterative whirlwinds, forceful slaps; a tapping activeness that makes one think what the man could do on properly fitted tools such as a Chapman Stick or a Warr. The resonant details of both strings and wood are alone worth the price of admission, as we literally get lost in a system of captivating periodicity. Mesmeric traits that – curiously enough – may derive from the composer’s studies of “quantum physics and market analyses” in addition to behavioral attitudes directly related to “regular” improvisational processes.

The music’s inbuilt concentration never affects the thorough intelligibility of the figures drawn by Sharp on the fretboard. It’s a different kind of skill, perhaps difficult to accept for someone convinced that circus acts like Dimeola/McLaughlin/De Lucia’s Friday Night In San Francisco represent the paradigm of technical command. Here we travel through disjunctive structures, places where the ability of a single performer – exercising digital agility and superior brain activity occasionally nuanced by bluesy tints – does not even consider the necessities of a mass. Rational reasoning versus unfertile virtuosity: the outcome is known in advance.