NED ROTHENBERG/ELLIOTT SHARP/SAMM BENNETT-SEMANTICS
LP, 1985, USA
Hands down my favorite album that I’ve encountered from Elliott Sharp’s vast discography, this music took the top of my head off when I first heard it as a teen on the radio in L.A. and twenty some years on, it still seems like a high water mark not only for Sharp but for the whole sprawling Downtown NY music culture of the mid-80′s. Samm Bennett’s octopoidal percussion work here is pure jawdropping polyrhythmic genius and, when set against Rothenberg’s endless circular-breathing curlicues of vaguely joujouka-ish spiral motion and the alternately coruscating and Magic Band-plangent fretwork of Sharp (on a custom double-necked guitar/bass) frequently escalates the proceedings into zones of ecstatic group-mind genius that are unsurpassable. This is never more true than on the overwhelming ever-building North African by way of no wave cacophany of “Terra Firma” and the pin-you-to-your-seat drama of “Vliet’s Van”, a track that I can only describe as sounding like The Magic Band interpreting Lalo Schifrin’ theme music to Enter The Dragon; easily one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. Please note that, as the insert shown attests, the track titles as listed on the back cover are actually reversed, with Side B ‘s contents actually Side A’s. Their “Bone Of Contention” LP (with their named changed to Semantics) will follow shortly.
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