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Nels Cline / Elliott Sharp - Open The Door
CD (NYC)



-Blue Particles
-Five Tastes Of Sour
-Isotropes
-Let Her In
-Pietraviva




Nels Cline - acoustic guitar
Elliott Sharp - acoustic guitar

Reviews:
(Dead Angel) Talk about a meeting of the minds, this is an inspired pairing of two of the experimental and avant-garde scene's greatest guitarists. Cline may be best known these days as the lead guitarist of Wilco, but he has a long and illuminating pedigree in the world of experimental music, while Sharp (best known for his long-running band Carbon) has been a fixture in NYC's no-wave / avant scene for over thirty years. Most of this five-track album is actually a lost album that was recorded in 1999 and intended for release for one label, then another, that both tanked before they could release the album; fortunately for the rest of us, PE head banana Bryan Day somehow heard the recording and offered to put it out, and here it is, with the original four tracks followed by a live recording at The Stone in 2007. Anybody who's heard either man play probably has an inkling of the experimental sound of this album, but even those in the know will probably be thrown for a loop by their decision to play strictly acoustic guitars. As a result, the studio tracks sound very much like John Fahey in one of his more out-there moments; amazing neo-folk guitar runs do battle with warped chords, strange progressions, and unorthodox sounds. Even more amazing is how tuneful it is in spite of its abject weirdness; they have a highly unusual approach to the concept of guitar duets, to be sure, but they express their ideas with considerable style and a surprising level of melodicism. The live track that rounds out the album is in a similar vein, albeit a tad more avant than the preceding material and a bit closer to the quixotic sound familiar to PE listeners; it's choppy and less melodic, turning less on melodic content and more on perverse, staggered rhythms, but still every bit as mind-bending as the rest of the album. Definitely an eye-opener. - RKF

(Killed in Cars) I was understandably excited to hear that Public Eyesore was to release a collaboration by Cline and Sharp — two phenomenal guitarists, one firmly in the avant-garde camp, the other approaching such territory by way of adventurous work in jazz and indie rock and best known of late for his regular gig in Wilco. I had mistakenly assumed at first that this was a new thing for these two, but as it turns out, they have other performances and recordings together in their past. Open The Door, unreleased until last year, is among the earliest, recorded in 1999 or 1997 depending on whether you believe the credits or the liner notes written by the musicians. I’m inclined to favor Sharp’s account with the earlier date. This is ranging free-form acoustic guitar interplay every bit as rewarding as you’d hope from this meeting, maintaining an almost folk vibe in spite of the chromaticism, atonality, and lack of steady pulse. “Blue Particles” dispenses with introductions and tosses us, startled, headlong into a frenetic clatter of muted strings and harmonics before gradually settling into lower-pitched, somewhat droning resonant textures. “Five Tastes of Sour” begins with much more space, evoking for me a calm country morning enjoying the summer sun, breeze, and quiet through the kitchen windows over coffee. Indian or Spanish sounding bends and vibratos cue the energy to pick up, progressing nicely into “Isotropes”, where the cry of a slide brings us out into the fields for a day of work in the heat and dust. Cline opines in the liner notes that “Elliott, in his way, is a bluesman,” and I think this is the point on the album where that is most evident; but don’t expect swingy rhythms and pentatonics so much as barn-wood bends and dust-devil tones. The clarity and nuance of the recording is such that you can even plainly hear the high vibration of the string on the other side of the slide, moving contrary in pitch. Five minutes in it gets more jovial and bubbly with banjo-like picking, a quitting-time stop by the bar downtown for a drink and a dance before settling in for the night. The slide comes buzzing back in for “Let Her In,” but this is more of an atonal, percussive piece, pushing harder on the sonic boundaries of acoustic guitars. There are chiming chords against droning strums, and later some long, aggressively buzzing drones come in which sound almost like amplifier feedback; I have no idea how they are done, perhaps with some sort of sympathetic vibration involving a drum head or vocals, or maybe there are actual amps involved. Then there’s an abrupt, unexpected cutoff — perhaps the tape ran out. The CD wraps up with a later live recording from 2007, “Pietraviva,” a lively, skittering, noticeably more jazz-inflected affair punctuated with harmonics and muted-string raking, that receives a deservedly enthusiastic response from the audience. The rapport evident between these two guitarists as they adventure together makes Shut The Door a joy. - Charles Hoffman

(Monsieur Délire) Studio session recorded in 1999, augmented with a live track from 2007, and this is just out on Public Eyesore. All acoustic guitar duos. Vivid, fast-past, virtuoso exchanges, though the idea is not to wow you with speed. Strong dialogues between two seasoned improvisers, with a nice informal feel. - François Couture

(Distorsioni) Quando due magnifici chitarristi e sperimentatori come Nels Cline e Elliott Sharp decidono di collaborare insieme il risultato non può che essere qualcosa di unico. Il primo non ha bisogno di troppe presentazioni, un curriculum chilometrico con decine di collaborazioni e vetta finale con l'ingresso nel 2004 nei favolosi Wilco di cui è splendida chitarra solista. Cline ha iniziato col fratello gemello Alex suonando inizialmente jazz, poi per lui dischi con Mike Watt (Minutemen) e tra le molte altre due collaborazioni con la straordinaria Carla Bozulich. Con lei ha suonato nei Geraldine Fibbers ma soprattutto nel disco a due a nome Scarnella, curioso anagramma dei loro nomi di battesimo, splendido album ricco di cerebrali sperimentazioni sonore. Elliott Sharp invece non ha mai goduto di un briciolo della fama di Cline al di là della barriera della musica d'avanguardia. Sharp è attivo già dalla fine degli anni settanta, nel decennio successivo invece è stato una specie di prime mover riguardo l'uso dei personal computers nelle performance live con un progetto a nome Virtual Stance. E' un eclettico polistrumentista: chitarra, sax e clarinetto non sono per lui oggetti misteriosi. Questo "Open the door" sigla una incredibile fusione di due chitarre acustiche, lanciate verso contorti orizzonti sonori, con suoni frantumati ed all'apparenza disarticolati. E' un disco di difficile ascolto, inutile negarlo, lo apprezzeranno di certo gli ascoltatori/chitarristi, o tutte quelle menti aperte che si aspettano dalla musica qualcosa in più delle solite linee melodiche. Solo 5 pezzi - o sarebbe meglio dire segmenti sonori - ma dalla durata di oltre 55 minuti. Quattro tracce sono addirittura risalenti a registrazioni degli anni novanta, poi per misteriosi motivi non sono state mai pubblicate. Ci ha pensato l'attento Bryan Day della Public Eyesore a levare le ragnatele da questi nastri, aggiungendo ai quattro segmenti una traccia live registrata nel 2007. Le due tracce extralarge presenti in "Open the door" hanno nome Isotropes, 13 minuti e Let her in, di oltre 16, e sono esercizi di sperimentazione chitarristica estrema. Per rendere l'idea si calpestano gli stessi terreni battuti da geniali chitarristi acustici dell'area Takoma Records quali Robbie Basho o il John Fahey più avanguardistico di "Fare Forward Voyagers" (1973), ma anche delle collaborazioni degli anni novanta, quando incrociò geni quali Derek Bailey e Jim O'Rourke. Punti di contatto anche con leggende quali Fred Frith degli Henry Cow o Eugene Chadbourne, tutti musicisti che il pubblico più attento ed "open mind" conoscerà molto bene. L'iniziale Blue particles presenta ritmi serratissimi con una fusione delle due acustiche a tratti spasmodica, mentre Five tastes of sour è più claustrofobica, sa molto di Henry Cow del live "Concerts" (1976). Chiude il disco la performance live di Pietraviva catturata allo Stone di New York nel 2007 piena zeppa di devianti percorsi chitarristici. Un disco che come suggerisce il titolo apre davvero una porta e più che una pura dimostrazione di tecnica appare un tentativo di dimostrare come con una semplice chitarra acustica, anzi due, si possono comporre strutture anticonvenzionali inoltrandosi in territori inesplorati. Un disco questo "Open the door" che i fans di Wilco molto difficilmente aggiungeranno alla loro collezione, ma sono pronto ad essere piacevolmente smentito. - Ricardo Martillos

(Free Jazz Blog) The strike of a string, a sudden atonal spark, a jarring rhythmic motif -- in the hands of some this could be a recipe for an improvised disaster. However, under the guidance of two restless and experimental master chefs, the result is a setting of new expectations. Guitarist's Nels Cline and Elliot Sharp are both uncompromising musicians, pushing boundaries whenever they can and coloring within the lines whenever they feel like it. Sharp's Aggregat was a favorite from 2012, and Cline's recent output like Jazz Free: A Connective Improvization and Gowanus Sessions, his recording with Thollem McDonas and William Parker, occupy opposite ends of accessibility in improvised music. On Open the Door, however, they take the acoustic guitar to the edge and tempt the listener to take a taste of the unknown. There is something special in the arpeggiated backing and plaintive slides and bends on 'Isotropes' and the rhythmic chatter on 'Blue Particles' that engages the listener. Then, there are the overtones and scratches at the start of 'Let Her In' and the percussive clatter later on that thrills. Each song is a unique and unexpected string of ideas, often eschewing melodic conventions, but always displaying empathy and consideration in the interactions. Suffice to say, Open the Door is an excellent addition to the guitar duo canon. In a patient but uncompromising way, Cline and Sharp cook up something special. - Paul Acquaro

(Aiding & Abetting) The two guitarists are back for another swing through experimental improvisational fare. The playing is accomplished and innovative; both men are so versatile that these songs incorporate almost too many sounds to mention. If you thought that improvisational music was only about noodling around to no particular end, this album ought to set your straight. Incendiary. - Jon Worley

(Ampersand Etcetera) The name Elliot Sharp was familiar, though not Cline. Anyway, two guitarists. This release had a long gestation. Four tracks come from sessions in 1999 while the fifth track (Pietraviva) is live from 2007. I put on this album with some trepidation, uncertain about the 2 guitar approach. But it is a lovely album. The Cline and Sharp have approached their interplay with a combination of musical artistry, serious skill, joyful interaction and a sense of play and adventure. Yes at times it is atonal or dense or oblique at times, but the two instrumnets complement each other brilliantly, one providing a base while the other may be searching the acoustic space. And both guitars are acoustic, adding to the atmosphere. There are elements of Spanish, blues, modernism and bluegrass emerging through the pieces; the lead and rhythm change; there is space and then density. Obviously, if you don't like or want to try acoustic loose guitar, avoid this album. But if you are interested in an exploration which thrills, entrances and entertains give this a go. - Jeremy Keens


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