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Elliott Sharp, Port Bou (Infrequent Seams Records)




Elliott Sharp, Port Bou (Infrequent Seams Records)

Checking in with the experimental classical scene in New York we find this guitarist-composer, who has been basically everywhere and with everyone, having recorded with people like Nels Cline and Debbie Harry in addition to seeing his pieces performed by myriad quartets and a few orchestras. This opera centers on the last moments of German-Jewish critic-philosopher Walter Benjamin, who, facing extradition to Nazi-occupied France, overdosed on morphine in the Spanish town of Portbou. The quartet tasked with bringing this utterly morose tale to life includes pianist Jenny Lin (I’m pretty sure we’ve covered her before), a laptop guy and an accordionist. The overture begins with creepy, borderline industrial noise-chill buffeted by the sounds of advancing soldiers, then moves into low-tech electro, then a scrambling, desperate cacophony from the crew on board, and eventually to bass/baritone singer Nicholas Isherwood, whose chest-tones lay out the desperation of the subject before moving to more traditional baritone techniques and, later, throat-singing, crazed growling and other oddities. As advertised, the libretto seeks out what Benjamin might have been thinking in those pitch-dark hours, possibly regretting his previous “wise” words of social criticism and at last facing the inevitable. This can be appreciated for its deathly analog urgency or its eerie samples, take your pick. Absolutely captivating. A+Eric W. Saeger




Axis: Sova, Motor Earth (Drag City Records)
CD Reviews: November 24, 2016

11/24/16
By Eric Saeger news@hippopress.com



 Axis: Sova, Motor Earth (Drag City Records)

Up till now I’d been ignoring the Drag City imprint’s output, mainly owing to the fact that they seemed to be a struggling, small-potatoes thingamajig I didn’t have time or space for. But they’ve snuck up on me and become relevant, specializing in acts that fit in well under the company name, such as this one, slinging 1960s-psychedelic hard rock with way too much soloing going on, the kind of sounds you hear when grandpa jams old Mountain tunes with his Elks Lodge buddies, perfect for those too-many-band nights at the Palladium in Worcester, Mass., if it were still around. All this isn’t to say it’s awesome; it’s a cross between Band of Skulls and The Sword, the latter reference on the vocal side, being that it sounds like the singer is singing through an answering machine. Part of this record wants to be the Rolling Stones, while we’re at it, and that part actually works. 1960s acid-rock isn’t due back anytime soon, but this stuff does offer its services to the front lines. B





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