Experimental saxophonist Jason Sharp released his debut record A Boat Upon Its Blood in 2016. An extraordinary feat of innovation and artistic merit, he developed for it a means to incorporate his own breathing and heartbeat into the stirring collages, and he continues to experiment with this on his latest.
His first record felt markedly organic and earthly: A Boat Upon Its Blood, Pt. 1 had a watery quality, and even In The Construction Of The Chest There Is A Heart’s industrial pulses felt like they were powered by a 19th century steam engine. Conversely, Stand Above The Streams sounds like it’s been beamed from outer space.
Creating an album whose sole rhythms are built from his own heartbeat, pulse, and controlled breathing then processed through a synthesis rig might sound part Frankenstein, part Heath Robinson, but the outcome is neither monstrous or comic.
The sheer variety of resonance and expression created by these electrical processes and his playing are enthralling. From Part 3B’s strange electronic pitch – for a moment recalling the distant toot of bagpipes – through the sax of Part 4A, quivering amongst the glassy synthesised sounds in a tense battle for leverage, to Part 2B, which blindsides with deranged sax lines and pulsing beats, the record is compelling.
Stand Above The Streams is a work of highly tuned suspense. Evidently, there’s nothing quite like the sound of a heart beating to, well, raise the heart rate. Sharp’s confluence of primal and visionary techniques further prove he is a singular talent on a record that relinquishes limpid clarity for something startlingly unfamiliar and yet strangely lucid. The result is bewitching, and decidedly human.