Elliott Sharp is surely one of the most uncompromising and diverse musicians around. He has two blues bands (Hoosgow and Terraplane), he's improvised with John Zorn, kicked out the jams with his King Crimson-meets-Capt. Beefheart combo (Carbon) and with the rhythm team from the Minutemen and fIREHOSE (the first BOOTSTRAPPERS album on SST) and he's composed for string quartets. The two pieces here, 'X-topia' and 'Intifada' are tense, harsh, angrily driven pieces of music, bringing to mind the string quartets Beethoven wrote towards the end of his life, as well as the classical compositions of Frank Zappa. 'Intifada' features Sharp's dissonant guitar (recalling Robert Fripp's more "tortured" moments) and wailing, vocalized clarinet playing with/against the brittle, anguished strings. The string group, the Soldier String Quartet, plays Sharp's edgy music with passion and grace. XENOCODEX is recommended to adventurous listeners who can also appreciate 20th century classical music
Composer: Elliott Sharp.
Personnel: Regina Carter , David Soldier (violin); Judith Insell (viola); Dawn Buckholz (cello).
Recording information: Points West Recording, New York, NY; Studio zOaR, New York, NY.
The Soldier String Quartet give a strong performance of two works that Elliott Sharp composed in the first half of the '90s. The first, "X-Topia," was commissioned for the 1994 Ars Electronica Linz. Using a real-time MIDI control called Buchla Thunder, and M software, Elliott Sharp samples and transfigures (processes and loops) sounds of the quartet while they play, creating an electroacoustic piece out of the string quartet's live performance. The result is a sawing, sonic swirl that thins out from a wider beginning, even while remaining insistently dramatic. The second composition, "Intifada," was composed in 1992 for Munich's Radical Jewish Music Festival. The many sections of this "series of snapshots" and moods include string drones riddled with punctuated holes of guitar sounds, Sharp accompanying the quartet with busy clarinet soloing, and a variety of textured parts. A successful and enjoyable work from Elliott Sharp. ~ Joslyn Layne