Elliott Sharp, with Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot – Err Guitar (2017)

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A summit meeting of three of the foremost guitarists of improvised music, spontaneous combustion magic happened when Elliott Sharp brought Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot into his Manhattan recording studio one summer day in 2016. Err Guitar (Intakt Records) is three masters of the outside pushing each other to go even further out, making this a notably delirious entry in the catalogs of all three. That’s saying something.

The intent, it seems, is to find pure musical abandon by blurring lines. The walls between harmony and rhythm, noise and melody, electric and acoustic…all obliterated. Everything is subservient to the art of give and take and spontaneity, and what came forth can only happen when minds run wild and everything coming out just as they imagined it, at the exact time they imagined it.

The psyche of each participant comes out even as they are brewing up something holistic: “Blindspot” is alchemy infused by acoustic guitar, fuzzy guitar and Halvorson’s familiar descents creating a foreign sound, but one where the three are actively conversing with each other, moving forward the mass of music together. Then as well is “Kernel Panic,” a weird, wonderful, collage of sounds you never imagined could be generated from three guitars. It proceeds with a drone-like rumble before opening up to allow the personalized musings of each of the three to be heard; sometimes together, sometimes in tandem.

There aren’t even rules requiring everyone playing together: most of the tracks are pairings and even solo performances that open insights into how each musician react each other musician, and to no one else at all.

“The Ship I Am On” is a Halvorson one-woman show (as she was for the entirety of the brilliant Meltframe), using looping to great effect, often leaving the impression that several more guitarists are involved and just like that, she peels off the layers and lays her guitar bare. “Wobbly” features the other two, a duel of acoustic guitars, reacting to each other’s slightest suggestion in real time and has more twists and turns than a good spy thriller. Another Sharp/Ribot tête-à-tête “Oronym” is effects-heavy, including some trippy looping and sampling, and Sharp trades pedal-driven volleys with Halvorson on “Sea Buzz,” where they often convey the impression that four guitarists are involved, not two. “Nektone” is Elliott by himself, but you wouldn’t know it, given the deft way he manipulates effects to mimic almost an entire band.

Still, when all the electronic witchcraft is peeled away, there remains uncommon guitar fluency that’s more concerned with the end results than the method used to attain it.

Astonishing things happen when a musician is both audaciously creative and insanely dexterous on his/her instrument. Put three of those types together and take off all the shackles, and the astonishment is exponentially greater. Err Guitar is virtuosic alien music.

*** Purchase download of Err Guitar from Bandcamp ***

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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