One of the most hard-to-pin-down composer/performers drawing breath on planet Earth is Elliott Sharp. Classically trained (studied some under Morton Feldman), Sharp has composed string quartets; leads the blues band Terraplane featuring singer Eric Mingus (son of Charles), has led assorted groups in NYC (in the so-called "Downtown scene"), and engaged in free improvisation in varied contexts (including solo). Void Coordinates marks the return of E#’s nominally "rock" band Carbon, its first new recording in many years. The "rock" side of Sharp’s equation is mainly in the band’s instrumentation, volume, and some of the compositions’ pugnacious dynamics Carbon bears little resemblance to anything you might hear on mainstream airwaves (and even non-mainstream ones, for that matter). E#’s Carbon is an avant-garde (drawing from the outer limits of classical, jazz, rock & free improv) combo with a rock-based approach.
For the uninitiated, Carbon can evoke editions of King Crimson (circa Red and onward), the wonderfully fractured Dadaist Americana of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, German experimentalists Can, Tony Williams’ original Lifetime (w/ J. McLaughlin, Larry Young & Jack Bruce) and monarchs of oddball guitar tunings Sonic Youth (in their more oblique moments). Void features collisions of minimalism, psychedelia, and Steve Lacy/Lol Coxhill-style soprano sax wails and trills ("Caldron"); gnarly, Bernard Herrmann-like pensiveness ("Eskatones"), and what sounds like traveling through a replicant’s (the artificial people in the movie Bladerunner) bloodstream "("Hypercubus"). Void is not music of theme/solos/theme nor is it a wild ‘n’ wooly free-for-all it is dense ensemble music although solos occasionally come to the fore. It’s dark, clangorous, wiry, somewhat cathartic, and except for the soprano sax and drums, you’ll wonder how they’re making that sound. For lovers of prog-rock and fusion with (a fierce, serrated) edge, this gets a thumbs-up.