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Friday, April 19, 2013

Nels Cline & Elliot Sharp - Open the Door (Public Eye Sore, 2013) ****

By Paul Acquaro

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.