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Elliott Sharp

The Velocity of Hue
Live in Cologne

A film by Pavel Borodin

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Review by Massimo Ricci, Paris Transatlantic, October 2007

To the best of my knowledge, no official film of Elliott Sharp existed until now, unless you count a low-budget Italian VHS tape called Sharpness, released MANY years ago. But fear not, as director Pavel Borodin has decided to shed some light on the New Yorker's artistic persona through this beautiful documentary issued in, alas, only 70 copies in European PAL format – too bad, because it's destined to become a Holy Grail for aficionados of improvised guitar. Filmed at Loft in September 2005 by a four-camera crew, Live in Cologne runs 76 minutes; there are also extra features, including an extract from the sound check. Sharp is one of the most intelligent of modern composers, as is evident from Borodin's interview footage. The guitarist cuts a splendid figure, his low, poised articulation discussing difficult concepts (such as the use of scientific and mathematic laws as a compositional basis) with the tranquillity of someone who sees things as obvious which others might well find incomprehensible. His peculiar facial resemblance to Igor Stravinsky is even more accented when he plays, lips tightened in concentration, sinuous yet strong hands tapping the strings of a Godin Multiac electroacoustic (linked to a laptop and a mixer). Sharp's music is a blend of minimalism, cyber-tribalism and radical acousticity, and the performance here touches on all these stylistic elements. The main concert presents material from The Velocity of Hue (Emanem) and Quadrature (Zoar); it is followed by two encores, the first of which uses electronic treatments in the manner of his Tectonics project, while the second is a straightforward avant-blues that should make people who still idolize the likes of Eric Clapton and Robert Cray feel ashamed. When he's not using an eBow, Sharp strokes, rubs and claws the strings with an unerring nose for harmonics, pinched droplets of overtone sapience that sparkle like stars in the dark night of six-stringed ignorance. One couldn't expect any less from a man who once named a piece "Triumph of the Won't"

Review by Kurt Gottschalk, SIGNAL to NOISE, issue #57, spring 2010

<...> The Velocity of Hue. Live in Cologne encapsulates some of Elliott Sharp's strongest solo wolk of the last decade or so, finding him running his beautiful Godin amplified hollowbody through his Macintosh. The Velocity of Hue pieces (initially released in 2003 on Emanem) merge Sharp's extended technique and remalkable finesse with his love for blues guitar. Two years later, the material as presented in this concert is more abstract but no less satisfying. Sharp also draws from his Tectonics compositions and does what he calls a "New Yolk City delta blues" encore. Interspersed with interview clips, it's a portrait of a talented innovator deep in his element.

Review by Kurt Gottschalk, The Squid’s Ear, August 2011

Freezing a project in recorded form can often undermine its evolution, a situation perhaps less problematic with the abundance of tiny imprints anxious to get noticed. There is, in other words, an awful lot of documentation of improvisation going on, but in the case of a project like Elliott Sharp's Velocity of Hue, it hardly seems a problem.

The initial Velocity of Hue release (Emanem, 2003) was a fascinating new take on the language of the blues. Sharp had already played more or less straight electric blues, most notably with his band Terraplane, but here he was alone with his resonator guitar and not so much deconstructing the blues as absorbing it. He continued exploring the material in concert after the record's release, stretching it into deeper abstraction and preserving it from the amber.

Two years after the album's release, Sharp performed the material at Loft in Cologne, in a concert well captured by director Pavel Borodin's multiple cameras. This time we find Sharp with a beautiful Godin amplified hollow body running through his laptop, which makes for a broad spectrum of hues, from purely acoustic to real-time sampled electronic passages. In truth, the material doesn't bear too striking a resemblance to the Emanem release, but there may be a different methodology behind it. The music here is built from more familiar Sharp tactics, with lots of fast hammering and harmonics, but like the Hue CD, there is a very organic and personal feel to it. Sharp also plays from his Tectonics compositions and does what he calls a "New York City delta blues" encore. Interspersed with brief interview clips, it's a fine portrait of a ridiculously talented innovator deep in his element.