(Disaster Amnesiac) The last time that Disaster Amnesiac received a recording featuring Elliot Sharp from Public Eyesore, I balked, in many ways simply due to the seriousness with which Sharp is esteemed by me. Some context for that decision: here's an artist whose Larynx remained in the tape deck of my cars for years during the 1980's (the lettering actually rubbed completely off its casing over time), whose band Carbon, seen at the Kennel Club in 1992 or so, completely blew me away, whose interview with Mondo 2000 remains one of the definitive statements on Cyberpunk as culture. In short, Sharp's work over the years means a lot to me. Disaster Amnesiac is a huge fan of his. The thought of reviewing any work of his seems particularly daunting to me. After an initial spin of Chansons du Crepuscule, Elliot's duo recording with French singer Helene Breschand, Disaster Amnesiac felt an immediate need to attempt to describe and enthuse. This new Public Eyesore product is so damn good, so illustrative of the twos' talents, I just had to dig in and type. Things get off to a wild, spooky start with Extase. Right out of the gate, Breschand's vocals, presumably sung in French but sounding more Kobaiian to this listener, pair with cool fuzz tones from Sharp, riffed out in rhythmic trance form. No one gets credit for the great drum programming, which is equally fine. Helene's wild wailing carries the track to some pretty odd places, but any fan of Avant Garde singing will find lots to love within them. Following up on the opening romp, La Langue Dans Ma Bouche and Je t'aime Tant feature more introspective moments. The former has great electronic burbling and mellow acoustic guitar strumming that frame vocals from both performers. On the latter, greasy slide guitar and swanky drum beats suggest Gainsbourg, but the lyrics seem to be a bit more Platonic than his legendary kink perspective. Breschand keeps up with the expressive vocal extends to great effect. Next up we find Ne Lui Dis Rein, with more acoustic guitar and electronic loops being paired. The loops have cool, reedy timbres, while the guitar strings drop sonic dew drops among them. The lyrics are sung cool and sultry. This one exudes mystery throughout its relatively short duration. Rein is followed up by Goutte a Goutte, which continues showcasing Elliot's diverse guitar creativity. Here, he coaxes metallic industry sounds from an electric; he's been doing this for years now, but as Disaster Amnesiac has listened to this track, I've marveled at his singular aesthetic accomplishment with it. Sharp's got such a unique take on sound, and he practices it incredibly well. Helene hits emotional soprano tones on the song, pulling the sense upward as she does so. All of the the previous action leads up to what, for me, is the high point of Crepuscule, a mind blowing version of the American Traditional classic The Cuckoo. Everything about this track, from Sharp's masterful guitar playing to his dusty baritone vocals and more of that crafty drumming blends with evocative mastery. This here's high art, and should be heard by anyone interested in creativity and aesthetic craft. Elliot Sharp has done so much, and Disaster Amnesiac has felt, listening to this track, that in many ways it's all lead to this track. If for no other reason, seek this disc out for it.
Breschand returns to the mic for the Eastern European Gypsy vibe of Amor, wherein the relative calm and beauty of the harp sounds gets exploded mid-song, one outburst framing its otherwise plaintive feel. The mournful zones gets quickly left behind with Le Bloque Cri, which again uses Elliot's electric guitar extensions and electronics for crazed sonic soundscape painting upon which Helene gets her Avant Ya Ya's out somewhat disturbingly. Sharp comments wryly in what sounds like some pretty fluent French, to boot. Nouveau Monde has a European Art Music sound, with Sharp's sparse rhythm guitar sliding all around his partner's up and down the scale vocal performance. Elliot shines as an accompanying player here and Breschand shows more incredible range.
Chansons du Crepuscule ends on with the quiet tones of Le Dernier Mot, where both players use whispering, soft tones with guitar and voice, almost as if they're waving goodbye, and Chose Rose rounds the the disc out in simple spoke-sung duet mode, a final bit of surreal expression from these two masterful performers. As mentioned, there are tons of reasons for any fan of creative music to seek out and enjoy the prodigious output of Elliot Sharp. Chansons du Crepuscule has more than a few itself. Disaster Amnesiac figures that, sadly, it isn't likely that this CD will be the breakout hit that it, in a sane world, should be, but, then again, Elliot and Helene Breschand probably couldn't care less about that. Undoubtedly, they'll continue in their quests for musical expression of the real and vital variety. Will they see you on their paths? - Mark Pino
(All About Jazz) In Chansons Du Crepuscule, the French multi-genre vocalist, harpist, composer and improvisor Hélène Breschand hooks up with the multi-genre New York guitarist Elliott Sharp to yield spell-binding music of the first order. This fascinating collaboration crosses musical genres as easily as a nuthatch jumps from a birch tree to a cedar and then to a hickory. But since jazz has elements of all music embedded within its frame work, it's not a significant leap to suggest that Chansons Du Crepuscule falls within the broader outlines of the category. There's a radical sense of play in this music. Breschand's French poetry and vocal expression perfectly accompanies the experimental elements of Sharp's guitar work. Take for example the opening cut, the aggressive and rollicking cave dance "Extase," with its coyote howls at the moonlight. Or consider Sharp's monkish chants that seem to emanate from dark chambers in "La langue dans ma bouche." Then there's "Je t'aime tant"—a slow sauntering across a dreamscape of sound. Breschand uses her voice to great affect at the 2-minute mark, as she slides her vocal up and down in a plaintive plea. The duo cover "The Cuckoo," a traditional blues tune. Clearly a highlight, Sharp starts with a bluesy riff that rolls like a slow night drive down a Tom Waits greasy-spoon lined backstreet alley. Sharp accompanies this riff with a deep vocal that provides two drops of the sinister with a pinch of the surreal. The closing minute, when the guitar takes off on a flight of fancy, stretches the imagination. The peaceful "Amor" provides another dimension. It begins with the lower register of Sharp's guitar and winds through an hallucinogenic Breschand vocal and harp in a solemn, almost prayerful expression. The "Le bloque cri" suggests a room of mirrors, where sounds seem to bounce off each other underneath the soulful Breschand vocal. The surreal effect is bolstered by the vocals of Sharp at the 3:40 mark. Consider this edge-walking music—where the id meets the ego—skirting the surfaces and ridges of sound while pushing the listener along its explorations. Nowhere is this walk more lyrical than in the song "Le dernier." It reminds one of some lost black and white New Wave cinematic scene of lovers walking along the Seine. Pity those who live their lives without open ears. Pity those who live their lives without jazz. And pity those who fail to give this music a spin. This music is that good. Highly recommended. - Don Phipps
(Avant Music News) Chansons du Crépuscule—“songs of dusk”—is a collection of original songs and interpretations recorded in Paris by New York guitarist/composer Elliott Sharp and French harpist and vocalist Hélène Breschand. The music on the disc was inspired by the music of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg—presumably including their classic 1969 recording Je t’aime…moi non plus, whose title, if not its period pop sound, finds an oblique echo in Sharp and Breschand’s Je t’aime Tant. Chansons du Crépuscule tends more toward an angular, hard-edged expressionism carrying the strong imprint of Sharp’s sonic alchemy and Breschand’s Dadaesque vocals. But they can switch registers at will, as the softly melancholy Le Dernier Mot shows; diverseness is the other side of their virtuosity. - Daniel Barbiero
(Neospheres) Ce disque d'une petite heure est le fruit de la sublime rencontre créative d'Hélène Breschand et d'Elliott Sharp enregistrée en une journée de mai 2014. Sur Chansons du Crépuscule la harpiste et le guitariste entrecroisent leurs cordes avec sensibilité, soubresauts et effets, et s'adonnent tous deux à des expressions vocales captivantes. L'alchimie fonctionne tout au long de l'album et donne corps à un ensemble naturellement bâti, évoquant tantôt la force éruptive d'une cérémonie chamanique et tantôt le récit intimiste. La voix d'Hélène Breschand emploie diverses nuances, passe sans heurt du chuchotement au râle, du récit susurré aux distorsions vocales plaintives en français, anglais et en des langues non identifiées, d'Europe de l'Est peut-être, voire inventées au vol. Elliott Sharp pose sa voix grave, en anglais et en français, dans un style mi-parlé mi-chanté sur quelques titres, en particulier sur le thème traditionnel "The Cuckoo", titre qui se rapproche le plus de la définition ordinaire du mot "chanson". Sur le titre "Le Dernier Cri" les vocalises ensorcelantes d'Hélène Breschand précèdent la redoutable voix grave d'Elliott Sharp qui s'exprime là en français. Chansons du Crépuscule trouve un bel équilibre entre expressions vocales et parties instrumentales librement égrenées, les unes venant structurer les autres au fil de l'intuition du moment capté. C'est ce qui fait tout le charme mystérieux de ce disque. - Eric Deshayes
(Vital Weekly) Elliott Sharp needs no introduction. He is one of leading forces of the downtown scene in New York, since the end of the 70s releasing stuff on his own Zoar Records label. His list of releases is an endless one, and must contain many dozens of albums. I don’t know much of his whereabouts of the last decade, but as this new release illustrates, he is still an active musician, always open for new projects. ‘Chanson du Crépuscule’ is a collaboration with French harpist, composer and improviser Hélène Breschand. Their collaboration has a history I learn, but this is their first recording as a duo. Recordings took place in a Paris studio in 2014. Obvious for their songs Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg were a source of inspiration. This is very evident in ‘Je t’aime’. In the opening track the singing by Breschand come close to Diamnda Galas-like extravaganza. But in most of the songs she sings with a soft voice, with a bit overacting in her performance. Sharp concentrates on guitars of course, and a diversity of tools and instruments (drum machine?) for creating ambient-like textures and backgrounds to Breschands performance of the lyrics, which she almost all wrote. Also most of the songs are written by the two of them, but carry above all the handwriting of Sharp. ‘The Cuckoo’, is a traditional, a bluesy song sung with the deep voice of Sharp. Qualities of Sharp and Breschand make a good match, and result in an entertaining album. - Dolf Mulder
(Babysue) Unusual and provocative experimental music from the duo of Helene Breschand and Elliott Sharp. Breschand is a harpist, composer, and improviser. Sharp is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and performer. According to the press release that accompanied this album, the two got together "to create a mix of neurotica, erotica, noise, grooves, virtuosity, crudity, and the spirit of play." An accurate way of summing up the overall idea of what's happening here. Chansons du Crepuscule is an experimental album, but there are enough familiar elements present to make these tracks sound at least somewhat accessible. Listening to this, the first word that comes to mind is...moody. These compositions come off sounding something like an animal that's lurking around behind the bushes,...sometimes completely hidden and sometimes allowing itself to be partially seen. This is one of the more unique albums we've heard thus far on the always-intriguing Public Eyesore label. Breschand and Sharp operate in a purely creative universe where there are no boundaries and no limits. The vocals on this one are particularly unusual and hypnotic. Eleven puzzling cuts here including "Extase," "Ne Lui Dis Rien," "The Cuckoo," and "Nouveau Monde." Truly captivating music from a different universe. Top pick. - lmnop
(NYC Jazz Record) Hélène Breschand is French, a Parisian, a vocalist, composer and harpist. She’s collaborated with such très avant mavens as David Toop and Christian Marclay and musicians Zeena Parkins and Tony Hymas. Elliott Sharp is an American, a New Yorker, guitarist, composer and saxophonist. He writes songs for his blues band Terraplane and assorted classical chamber ensembles, studied under classical composer Morton Feldman and points to Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist Hubert Sumlin as an inspiration. Chansons du Crepuscule finds them playing tribute (though not exactly reverently) to the sophisticated, somewhat baroque-ish pop of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, whose sleek, suggestive “Je t’aime...moi non plus” was a massive European hit in 1969. Opener “Extase” displays Breschand’s elated whoops intertwining with Sharp’s fuzzed-out guitar lines and what sounds like a sitar—this serves as a clarion call and perfect introduction to this vocal counterpart to a corridor of funhouse mirrors. The duo does a unique rendition of “Je t’aime”, recasting it as a blues-drenched dirge; Breschand makes with appropriately breathy/breathless cooing before loosing some stratospheric wails while Sharp plays eerie bottleneck blues, set to a percussion loop. This song goes from seduction to apocalypse in a few (un)easy minutes. For a taste of the Infernal Depths, take a listen to “Goutte à Goutte”—Breschand sings wordlessly in a husky (and impressive) range amid eerie guitar sustain and clattering, echoing, hellish soundscapes. “The Cuckoo”, presumably an ode to the bird, features a rare vocal from Sharp, his deep, velvety baritone almost a ringer for ‘60s pop craftsman Lee Hazlewood. Brittle, crackling, swirling harp and guitar carry country blues overtones and some noir-esque twang over a slinky, loping groove before a somewhat psychedelic guitar storm. This duo, if not apparent by now, likes to start with one type of ambiance and then invert/subvert it. But not all the way through: on “Amor” the harp is plucked sweetly, Breschand’s voice floating somewhere between coziness and lament, the mood musing and contemplative. The pair maintain the sultry, refined, shrewdly erotic vibe of the Gainsbourg/Berkin collaboration while moving into surreal realms as yet undreamt. - Mark Keresman
(Downtown Music Gallery) Featuring Helene Breschand on harp & vocals and Elliott Sharp on guitar, bass, lap steel electric sitar, electronics & vocals. Inspired by the “works from Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg filtered through other pataphysical flotsam and jetsam of the 20th century to create a mix of neurotica, erotica, noise, grooves, virtuosity, crudity, and the spirit of play.” Longtime Downtown pioneer, Elliott Sharp, never ceases to surprise us with a wide variety of unique endeavors and unlikely choices (in both personnel and genres or styles). Ever since the Tzadik label released a tribute CD to French singer/songwriter/character Serge Gainsbourg, I’ve been a fan, searching out his own albums and collaborations with Jane Birkin and others. Although Mr. Sharp and Ms. Breschand claim to be inspired by Gainsbourg, there is quite a bit more going on than that. All but tow of the songs here were written by Ms. Breschand and Mr. Sharp (often together) plus the do a couple of traditional songs. Ms. Breschand howls at the beginning of “Extase” which features some sly, twisted sustained guitar and electric sitar. Breschand does a great job of cutting loose with all kinds of spooky vocal sounds. Mr. Sharp also uses his deep voice to evoke those sinister spirits on “La Langue Dans Ma Bouche”(“Tongue in My Mouth”), trading hushed spoken word lines (in French) with Ms. Breschand’s equally eerie voice. I love the way Ms. Brechand’s acoustic harp and Mr. Sharp’s electro-acoustic guitar create a soft, mesmerizing haze on “Ne Lui Dis Rien”. Sharp adds subtle electronic seasoning to give this piece a more dream-like haze. I love the way Ms. Breschand uses here voice to add a layer of tasty dialogue to the proceedings. Since my French is rudimentary at best, she still creates vibes or images with the sound of her words. There quite bit sonic sorcery here, which evoke an often mysterious ambiance. Time so sip some wine and have some hors d’oervres by candle light. - Bruce Lee Gallanter
(Kathodik) Il pelato cordaiolo sperimentale newyorkese (oramai storicizzato ma buono ancor come pane e zucchero) e la vocalist/arpista impro francese, che molto si erano incontrati in giro per palchi ma mai, avevano inciso uno gnignino di qualcosa assieme. Si attrezzano per una giornata in uno studio di NY nel Maggio 2014 e ci dan dentro come criceti intossicati dai gas di scarico. L'ispirazione buona vien dagli umidori prodotti da un'altra coppia (Serge Gainsbourg / Jane Birkin), poi si ricordano e attrezzano un paio di traditional e se le suonano alla brutto Dio (in ovvia modalità istantanea). Trovar qualcosa che non vada è parecchio complicato, son metalli picchiettati da denti, stridori, colate laviche e qualche andatura sciancata tra blues e trip-hop. Notti, lenzuola e mozziconi, evocati e strapazzati.
La Breschand, voce erotica/nevrotica (dico Galás, Ponomareva o Bittová, Lunch e pur la Krause), Sharp, pur lui al gorgheggio occasionale, cupo di buia, buffa afonia. Urti siderurgici di Est Europa, detriti di feedback in controllo, bave noise, ingranaggi in movimento sensuale e corpi/strumento trattati a 360 gradi. Ci si diverte pure e scende e accende come un vin rosso, corposo e di fruttato veleno. Ringraziamo Public Eyesore per l'uscita. Corpi crudi al crepuscolo. Lingua raschia lingua (tanta saliva in subbuglio). - Marco Carcasi