Panrec

To the best of my knowledge, no official film of Elliott Sharp existed until now, unless you count a low-budget Italian VHS tape called Sharpness , released MANY years ago. But fear not, as director Pavel Borodin has decided to shed some light on the New Yorker’s artistic persona through this beautiful documentary issued in, alas, only 70 copies in European PAL format – too bad, because it’s destined to become a Holy Grail for aficionados of improvised guitar. Filmed at Loft in September 2005 by a four-camera crew, Live in Cologne runs 76 minutes; there are also extra features, including an extract from the sound check. Sharp is one of the most intelligent of modern composers, as is evident from Borodin’s interview footage. The guitarist cuts a splendid figure, his low, poised articulation discussing difficult concepts (such as the use of scientific and mathematic laws as a compositional basis) with the tranquillity of someone who sees things as obvious which others might well find incomprehensible. His peculiar facial resemblance to Igor Stravinsky is even more accented when he plays, lips tightened in concentration, sinuous yet strong hands tapping the strings of a Godin Multiac electroacoustic (linked to a laptop and a mixer). Sharp’s music is a blend of minimalism, cyber-tribalism and radical acousticity , and the performance here touches on all these stylistic elements. The main concert presents material from The Velocity of Hue (Emanem) and Quadrature (Zoar); it is followed by two encores, the first of which uses electronic treatments in the manner of his Tectonics project, while the second is a straightforward avant-blues that should make people who still idolize the likes of Eric Clapton and Robert Cray feel ashamed. When he’s not using an eBow, Sharp strokes, rubs and claws the strings with an unerring nose for harmonics, pinched droplets of overtone sapience that sparkle like stars in the dark night of six-stringed ignorance. One couldn’t expect any less from a man who once named a piece “Triumph of the Won’t”.

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