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Sharif Sehnaoui - Old and New Acoustics

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Artist: Sharif Sehnaoui

Album: Old and New Acoustics

Label: Al Maslakh

Review date: Apr. 21, 2011

Beirut-based Sharif Sehnaoui uses prepared, extended and often percussive playing techniques to realize a wide range of non-traditional sonorities on acoustic guitar. Old and New Acoustics offers two compositions, one long (more than 30 minutes in length) and the other much shorter, that ebb, flow and pulsate in fascinating and constantly changing ways.

The long work, “To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before,” is at times relentless in its intensity, and (in fitting the titular Star Trek reference) wide-screen and spacious in effect. Beginning with bowed-sounding patterns, it moves through episodes that rumble, ruminate, ring, peal, pound, sparkle and ripple — sometimes all at once. Unfolding within a well-developed sense of form and structure, the piece is ultimately revealed as a long-form immersion in overtone haze and complex metallic-timbred pointillism, with wood and metal resonating and vibrating in sonic fields of varying complexity, density and dynamics. Remarkably, all of this is done with no overdubs or edits: the piece was recorded in one take, in real time.

The second piece, “Trane,” does some of the same within its shorter seven- minute duration, beginning with a low-end essay that is, in an abstract and refracted way, reminiscent of a Jimmy Garrison bass solo or the cycling patterns churning beneath Coltrane’s Africa/Brass, before evolving into a sparkling effusion of gentle, bell-like tones.

Beyond a name-check, there might be at least one thing that Sharif Sehnaoui’s music shares with that of John Coltrane. There is a strong and restless intensity to be heard in both of these works; a disciplined but nonetheless questing approach, leading to music that vibrates within the body while also reaching for the shimmer of something that seems astral and celestial.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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