PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Elliott Sharp's Terraplane: Forgery

Nils Jacobson

The rough, melancholic, soulful, rambunctious, and misbegotten qualities of the blues shine through on Forgery.


Elliott Sharp's Terraplane

Forgery

Label: Intuition
US Release Date: 2008-01-08
UK Release Date: 2007-10-29
Amazon
iTunes

Elliott Sharp can be a real noisemaker. The guitarist has teamed with dwellers of outer cosmic space to create some extremely dissonant, in-your-face music. Call it experimental or avant-garde if you like... the man has excellent command of his instrument, but he can be hard to follow.

Up until I heard Sharp's original Terraplane (Homestead, 1994), I had no clue that he could also play the blues. With his electric power trio, the original Terraplane incarnation, he blew through the generations, sliding like Robert Johnson in his kitchen, doing the Texas blues shuffle a la Stevie Ray Vaughan, and so forth. Sharp has an encyclopedic understanding of the blues guitar, including its voice-like phrasing, its elastic intonation, its tension and release, and the all important "cry". He approaches improvisation from a jazz perspective without making the exercise the least bit academic.

Four years after a similar 1996 duet record with vocalist Queen Esther, Sharp had assembled a real band with horns and vocals, called it Terraplane, and gotten it on disc. This, the group's fifth recording, features a new reincarnation of the band and finds Sharp back in rougher territory. It was easy to sit back and enjoy that first disc, but you often have to pay attention to Forgery in order to enjoy it properly. Maybe that represents a return to roots for E#.

To his credit, Sharp's assembled a crack band of indie all-stars who all know how to make the action happen, and they fit together intuitively. Improvisation has spread the original frontman concept all around. Oddly enough, Sharp's guitar often sounds too low in the mix for me, but I guess that's one way of drawing attention to the rest of the group. Curtis Fowlkes (trombone) and Alex Harding (baritone sax) step in regularly and provide some of the most gut-wrenching playing on the record.

To call this a blues record would be an understatement. Sharp's got plenty of the aforementioned blues chops, and his guitar is a rallying point for the group, but he's evolved to the point where every player gets to say something personal -- a big change from the lock-step "double trouble" rhythm section on his first blues disc. So much of this music is interactive and improvised that Forgery crosses the line into jazz territory. But blues and jazz have been a happy couple more or less since the beginning, and they are exactly that on this disc.

The music acquires some of its greatest color through vocal contributions on seven of 11 tracks. Two returning band members, Tracie Morris and Eric Mingus, sing on one and six tracks respectively. Sharp himself also makes a low-key cameo with Fowlkes and Harding. Morris sounds warm and relaxed, sultry and legato, appropriately enough for lyrics like "music is happy, no matter what" on track three. Mingus is no crooner: he's rough, raw, and in your face. The Hendrix edge on "Dance 4 Lance" is uncanny, for example.

The rough, melancholic, soulful, rambunctious, and misbegotten qualities of the blues shine through on Forgery. The group is very much a band, with plenty of back-and-forth all along. I can't say I got much out of the vocalists, at least in part due to personal taste. The instrumental tracks are all longer and seem more sophisticated, taking the song form concept much more freely.

And that befits the title, illuminated in the liner notes with 12 correct proper definitions as verb or noun -- relating to pig iron, repeatedblows, advancement, hydraulic presses, and, yes, that counterfeit thing. Irony has always been one of Sharp's distinctive features, whether on the page or on disc.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.