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POP MUSIC REVIEW : The Improvisational Prowess of Elliott Sharp

January 14, 1988|CRAIG LEE

In New York, Elliott Sharp is a name to reckon with: a leading composer, guitarist, independent record company owner and agent provocateur of the East Village "no wave" music scene.

In Los Angeles, that and 85 cents would get him on a bus, but in a remarkable performance at Bogart's nightclub in Long Beach on Tuesday, Sharp lived up to his name, cutting through to the edge of contemporary sound with his improvisatory prowess.

A bonus was Sharp's local rhythm section for the evening: Mike Watt and George Hurley of Firehose. The night started off with Sharp harshly wailing on a bass clarinet through a series of filters and devices. Switching to a double-necked guitar that worked as its own synthesizer triggering sampling devices, Sharp blended sheets of harmonics and overtones, white noise and scattershot rhythmic patterns.

His adroitness and inventiveness place him in the company of such modern guitar masters as Henry Kaiser and Fred Frith. Though Hurley and Watt initially seemed a bit locked into static grooves, they gradually loosened up and became sympathetic to Sharp's angular thrusting. At one point there was a ferocious dual bass exchange between Sharp's fluid twanging and Watt's finger-popping growl.

Other highlights included a subterranean dub beat over which Sharp's guitar literally talked. This was music for a post-atomic world, suggesting the squawks of an irradiated sea gull while clusters of harmonics dripped like acid rain. In other words, this stuff burns . Sharp, Watt and Hurley will also perform at the Palomino tonight.

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