«Olso» documents a series of seven highly imaginative, free-improvised duets of American experimental composer and guitarist Elliott Sharp and Oslo-based American double bass player John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal, recorded in Oslo at NoTAM in January, 2018 and later mixed by Sharp.
Both Sharp and Wilhite-Hannisdal refuse to surrender to any musical norm or to genre and style definitions. Sharp is a multi-instrumentalist who composes music for contemporary ensemble, leads his avant-blues Terraplane band, experiments with noise and electronics and is an exceptional improviser. Wilhite-Hannisdal is a former student of Reggie Workman and composes music for theater and dance performances, draws inspiration from Eastern Europe folk music, hymns from colonial America children’s songs written by Theodor Adorno, and the mating calls of codfish.
Sharp and Wilhite-Hannisdal have developed idiosyncratic vocabulary of extended techniques that push their instruments to their expressive limits. Sharp brought to the «Olso» session his custom-made Strandberg Boden 8-strings guitar. Its extended range offers a wide variety of textures and densities with radically shifting dynamics. Wilhite-Hannisdal’s double bass had pickups inside the fingerboard, allowing the duo to explore new sonic territories on the instrument.
The seven pieces of «Olso» refers to the Norse mythology but have a strong futuristic perspective, and all suggest distinct, unpredictable and often eccentric improvising strategies and dynamics. Sharp and Wilhite-Hannisdal still test the water on the sparse, opening piece «Járnsaxa» (Thor’s lover), but already on «Greip» (daughter of the giant Geirröðr) they create a nuanced and rich enigmatic texture, blending in each other’s manipulated and hyper-expressionist strings work. «Jaki» deepens this carefully manipulated and mysterious vein and sketches a kind of minimalist-futuristic film noir vibe. «Hati» (after Hati Hróðvitnisson, the wolf who chases the moon across the night sky) creates a fragile, almost transparent and chamber electro-acoustic interplay that succeeds to sound intense despite its minimalist sonic envelope. On «Sköll» (another wolf, this one chased the sun) Wilhite-Hannisdal injects a stubborn, grinding pulse with his clever bow work to the dense, distorted-psychedelic flights of Sharp. «Breiða» extends the rhythmic indercurrent even further but to what sounds as complex, non-symmetrical dance moves of aliens with no sense of groove. On the last «Suttungr» (son of the giant Gillingr) Sharp offers a noisy, rhythmic electronic soundscape that contrasts the delicate, expressive vocabulary of Wilhite-Hannisdal.
Excellent duo. Fantastic duets.
Elliott Sharp (Strandberg Boden 8 electric guitar); John Andrew Wilhite-Hannisdal (b)