Intrepid listeners with a taste for raw sound experiments and grubby guitar manipulations will be able to enjoy Elliott Sharp's solo album, Sferics, straight through, but newcomers who aren't familiar with his exploratory and demanding art should try this album in small samples. Sharp's pieces are a combination of highly active electronic improvisations and multi-layered, reverb-drenched soundscapes. How they are understood depends on whether they are heard as slowly evolving sequences of organic figurations, or as static field compositions embellished with chains of ideas; sometimes both descriptions are apt. Either way, the effect of the music is still quite bracing and head-clearing at its fiercest, and compelling and hypnotic at moderate levels, at least for anyone who sticks with the CD long enough to find out. Make it past the piercing, stuttering guitar arioso of Event Horizon and the extremely loud, dirty feedback of Oscuro (which should qualify as a monument to skronk), and the rest of the disc is child's play. After them, the pointillistic pseudo-recitative of Clarify and the funky, slippery Threshold are almost accessible, albeit in a post-Hendrix fashion. One thing Sferics is not, though, is ethereal, wispy, or conventionally pretty, and daydreamers looking for spacey chill-out blandness will not find it here. This is intensely focused, gritty, abrasive, and often harsh music that only wide-awake fans of noise can love, but it is lovable, in its way. One might wish, however, that Sharp had provided some informative liner notes to explain his techniques with the fretless guitar, spring bow, and e-bow, or to give some context for his procedures, esoteric though they may be. Unfortunately, the sleeve's mysterious artwork and spare credits provide no enlightenment.
The disc's sound is clear and vibrant, but unexpectedly explosive in spots, so some volume adjustments may be necessary.