“presets” is an album of abstract and ambient electronica. Wait. No, no it’s not. It’s a guitar album. Very much a guitar album. Still abstract-sounding, but with the guitar acting not so much as instrument, more as a sound controller, a means of sonic manipulation.

A while back, Chris Sharkey was touring and travelling a lot (sounds like pre-COVID times!) and during all the sitting still (flights, airports, the M1) he found his listening habits gravitating towards longer form, MORE unhurried music. Inspired to create his own, he used guitar, computer, effects and three ‘rules’ (in CS’s own words):

1. I prepared no musical ideas and just improvised when I hit the record button, simply responding to whatever the first sound was and developing it from there;

2. I paid no attention to the time and tried to remain as patient and focused as possible;

3. I recorded to one stereo track and did no additional processing once the music was recorded.

The press release namechecks Actress, Burial, Fennesz, Reich, and Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music… but lacking a comprehensive knowledge of their œuvres, what I get from it is the sense of a deep inner world where surface uniformities are built from a thousand diverse nuances – a casual listen may zone you out, a close listen draws you in.

blue cloud, red fog is the entrance to the labyrinth, a sense of circular motion laid out linearly – familiar corners, passages, doorways… repeating, inverting, rotating us into position for the sharecropper’s daughter, the first longer piece at 17+ minutes. Long tones oscillate from ear to ear, pinging around the stereo landscape. Distorted metal fingers rasp at the edges. A distant electronic wind blows through electric branches. A virtual factory manufactures distraction. It’s ever-changing yet monolithic. The overall form waits patiently to be known. No rush.

It’s appropriate to how and why this music was developed that you have to slow down to board this ride. On a quick, initial listen, I felt my lazy attempt to engage was actively rebuffed. But adjust your time-sense, appreciate and absorb the ebb and flow, the sink and swell and… you know the language but you may be listening too fast to grasp what it’s saying. Because it’s the slow listen that reveals the details: the gentle tick of hidden mechanisms in …daughter, the long undulations of evangelist (salvation history), the ambient vinyl-like crackle accompanying watt law and order, the subtly ragged sandpaper edge to scorpion bowl… Endless facets to discover and appreciate

Requirements for full enjoyment? Find space, time and dissolve your thoughts in Sharkey’s electric murmurings. The more you listen, the more there is to hear…

blue cloud, red fog
the sharecropper’s daughter
faloodeh with flake
evangelist (salvation history)
detained at the border
young brothers
torpid metacarpals
watt law and order
puget sound backlash
scorpion bowl

Not Applicable NOT058

Chris Sharkey – electric guitar

“presets” is available on Bandcamp (CD or download) from Not Applicable or direct from Chris Sharkey.

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