Off-Ramp

Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Peter Stenshoel’s Album of the Week

Every week, KPCC board operator Peter Stenshoel displays a different album in his cubicle. Here's this week's selection. -- John

My introduction to Monkey-Pockie-Boo, and to the music of Sonny and Linda Sharrock, occurred at the end of an exhilarating afternoon of free improvisation workouts at the home of Mark Maistrovich. Mark was attacking electric guitar in electrifying staccato bursts of notes. His playing reminded me of John McLaughlin’s, and I was in awe of the privilege to pound piano with Mark and his fellow free jazz travelers, Stu Mathews and Lane Ellwanger.

Listening to records afterwards was just as important. We shared what we had discovered, and our ears were tingling with eagerness to grab and ponder new sounds. So when Mark placed this LP on the turntable, pronouncing Sonny Sharrock one of the best new guitarists of the day, I was expecting, again, the staccato runs and lightning speed which was then in vogue. Boy was I wrong.

The side-long track, "27th Day," began with interminable bursts of drummer Jacques Thollot and bassist Beb Guerin displaying jet-propelled cycles, laying down a horizon of wild possibility. Awaiting the entrance of electric guitar, I hunkered down, ears wide awake for the first hint of it. The release arrived as a kind of flash of Satori. I remember shivers running up my spine at the weird pure sliding note I took for a string instrument. I realized soon it was a high quality slide whistle! Sharrock was not only a master of suspense, but also a bit of a trickster.

After the unforgettable slide whistle solo, the electric guitar came in, sounding like chains, train doppler, roller coasters, dolphins squealing, and a herd of galloping ponies. Next, Sharrock’s wife, Linda, sings, shrieks, and wails as if her life depends on it. No irony muddies the art. Every note in the piece comes with an all-or-nothing commitment that these days feels almost alien. Recorded in Paris at the tail end of the 60s (July, 1970), Monkey-Pockie Boo was created well before "industrial" acts such as Nine Inch Nails or Merzbow. The freshness on this vinyl endures to this day.

 

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