Elliott Sharp – electric guitar
Scott Fields – electric guitar
Although the Sharp-Fields duo has a sound all its own, under the surface you can sense traces of “New Music,” minimalism, free jazz, and blues. For this performance, the two composer-instrumentalists focus on the interactions of two electric guitars, as they played on their most recent release, Akra-Kampoj, on New Atlantis Records. Both of the musicians have long been interested in composition, improvisation, and borders between them. That’s why, without discussing “rules” for the project, Sharp and Fields each packed their compositions for the duo with a mixture or conventional notation, graphic notation, and structures for improvisation.
Scharfefelder ➤ Clean Feed Records
Afiadacampos ➤ NEOS Music
Akra-Kampoj ➤ New Atlantis Records
Ostryepolya ➤ PanRec/NotTwo Records
From the opening notes of ‚Bagsant‘ you can hear that you are in for a guitar heavy treat. With at least 12 electrified strings between Sharp and Fields, they choose play a single note figure basically differentiated only by the tone of their guitars – the left side is fuzzier. Small changes make all the difference until their lines diverge and the song opens up. ‚Denisova Stomp‘ features some rapid melodic lines and delicate intersections but then becomes quite heavy towards the end. The elements of the track are many and varied, changing textures and tones will swing from quiet to fearsome at the flick of a pick. This duo obvious chemistry is not without some history. I last checked in with Fields and Sharpe back in 2012 when I reviewed Afiadacampos, which is an acoustic effort. Either way, acoustic or electric, this is the work of two master musicians, who together create a fascinating world straddling composition and improvisation.
by Paul Acquaro, Free Jazz Collective
When guitarists Elliot Sharp and Scott Fields get together, they don’t seem to have any interest in making things easier. Their latest album Akra Kampoj continues their experiment, forsaking traditional structures and sounds for something more questing. Across these eight tracks (four composed by each artist), the duo flit and twitter through tonal experiments, looking more at textures and sounds that can be dragged from electric guitars than anything else.
Much of the album follows the argument set forth by opener “Bagsant”, even if it’s rhythmically steadier than much of what follows. Sharp and Fields use sharp skritches to build up their atmosphere and then to move through it, hinting at but never accepting a groove. In a sense, the play with time and subtle change speaks to an affected version of minimalism, except the guitarists provide an ever persistent presence in their playing, occasionally in technical runs or in surprising feints at song.
The playing could easily be lost in the ether (“Bagsant” might stick around too long), but the players’ abstractions find roosts across the album. Sharp’s “Pingo” provides the first grounding point. The duo delivers a thicker sound, with hints of noise-rock that almost become something more tangible. Where much of the album skitters, this one grinds – it’s the machine in the ghost.
“Denisova Stomp” also puts sand on the ice. While it retains the duo’s sense of reach, there are brief moments that loosely connect to more traditional sounds. There’s a mid-piece thrust at krautrock, but Sharp and Fields remain unwilling to resolve it into a groove. Likewise, there’s tense fuzz that sounds like an intro, but instead of collapsing into a 1970s anthem, it turns itself around into a dissipation.
Outside of those few moments, the album mostly relies on quick, nervous guitar work (with built-in breathing space). While the music scuttles forward, there’s an urgency to it. There’s little to no linearity to the compositions, yet they push forward. The album coheres around a general aesthetic more than a sequencing, but the pieces do follow their explorations from “Bagsant” through a proper closing with “Transester”. That closing number holds up steady tones, signifying the closure to come. The piece is as busy at its predecessors, but less frantic, allowing a sort of calm release as it settles at the finish.
Akra Kampoj is, not surprisingly, another heady album, with its rewards hidden among scattering guitar sounds. If it feints at songs and riffs, the misdirection adds to the pleasures, which aren’t carelessly found, but grow out of shifting tonalities and sonic challenges.
by Justin Cober-Lake, Dusted
Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound-artist Sharp has central to the experimental music scene in New York City for more than thirty years. He has released more than 200 recordings spanning the musical spectrum. He pioneered ways of applying fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition and interaction as well as pioneering use of computers in live improvisation. His compositions have been performed by the RadioSinfonie Frankfurt, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Rezonanz, Kronos Quartet, and Zeitkratzer. His “Quarks Swim Free” premiered at the Venice Biennale in September 2003 and his chamber opera “EmPyre” premiered at the 2006 Biennale.
Fields developed as part of the Chicago free-jazz scene in the 1960s and early 1970s. His ensembles and collaborations have included Marilyn Crispell, Hamid Drake, Michael Formanek, John Hollenbeck, Rob Mazurek, Myra Melford, Joseph Jarman, and Jeff Parker. He has released 30 CDs as a leader or co-leader and has been a sideman on many other recordings. He has been commissioned by Ensemble Musikfabrik, The Bonn Beethoven Festival, the Milwaukee Improvisers Orchestra, Kanopy Dance, Li Chiao-Ping Dance, the Wisconsin Alliance for Composers, Douglas Rosenburg, Arno Oehri, the Köln Musiktriennale, and the Brühl Haydn Festival.