Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Christian Marclay / Elliott Sharp - High Noon

High Noon
Intakt Records 2000


On High Noon, electronic sampling, cut-up wizard Christian Marclay and multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp have fun messing around with the sounds and atmosphere of the Spaghetti Western, deconstructing, obliterating, reworking and updating them through sonic interplay as each musician pushes the other into submission like two old, scarred and dirt-trodden gunslingers meeting one last time for an impressive, final showdown. Marclay's electronics are warm, fuzzy, soaked in a dense, earthy quality simulating sheep bells, billowing wind and the dust and heat of the desert. Sharp's various instruments are minimal and abstract, his guitar plucking on opener 'Blinding Shadow' is sparing and slick evoking the distant memory of some 19th century outlaw folk ballad, later to be accompanied by a similar kind of jaunty piano tune, barely recognisable after Marclay's electronic dissection, warping the traditional into the digital present.

I remember watching High Noon as a child, impressed by the films use of real time to create tension and suspense, waiting for the clock to strike noon and Miller and his gang to come and have his day and take revenge on abandoned sheriff Will Kane. Marclay and Sharp manage to maintain this stylistic tension through a combination of rapid beats (that sound like clocks ticking, chiming, wearing down time itself as that fateful hour approaches) played off against slower instrumentation from Sharp like on the beginning of 'I'll Come Out... Let Her Go!'. The onslaught of sampling comes quick and fast like a gunman drifting from one town to the next, causing trouble, having his way with the local women, upsetting the simple townsfolk and disappearing into a desert of ever-changing rhythms, walls of sound, all-out feedback and twisted electronics, until the haunting finale plays itself out with long, slow guitar drones over a tumbleweed-esque breeze of microtonal clicks and beats.

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