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Chris Sharkey - Presets [Not Applicable - 2021]

Presets is a release that sits squarely between visceral-to-angular soundscaping, and simmering ambience- that’s sometimes goldenly gliding and at others uneasily pressing. The release comes in the form of a double CD- featuring a total runtime of just over eighty minutes.

The album appears on Not Applicable, with the two CD’s coming in a mini gatefold, this takes in what looks like close-up pictures of a scared and worn grey and black flooring of some form. Inside the gatefold, we get minimal black texts- detail track listings, all that was used to create the album- a guitar, and minimal credits.

Chris Sharkey is a Leeds based guitarist- who has been active since 1999. He’s put around ten or so releases taking in splits, collabs, and stand alones- seemingly Presets is one of his few CD-based releases. 

The first CD opens with the nearing four minutes of “Blue Cloud, Red Frog”- here we find bouncing angular drones, moving against a backdrop of almost harmonic church organ sounding sustains and woozy-to-discordant tone play. It’s a nice opener as it sits between the albums two focuses- visceral angularity and soothing to darky hued ambient. As we move on through this first disc we come to stretched and hazed melancholia of “Evangelist( Salvation History)", where we find just over nine minutes swirling and simmer ambience, which is slow bent/ edged by angularity. It feels like a more downturn and grey corrupted take on the type of thing Stars Of The Lid did on the more guitar-based tracks on Tried Sounds Of. Or maybe a stretched and slightly detuned Popol Vuh. The first disc is played out by the just over seven and a half minutes of “Detained At The Border”- here we find glowing and drifting clouds of looped tone sustain, grainy hover, and slight feedback edged simmer.

Moving onto disc two and we have the blunt and awkward tone drone shifts of “Young Brothers” which slides in just under the five and a half minute mark. There’s the more golden and hovering, though still slightly uneasy ambience “Torpid Metacarpals”- this nears the twelve-minute mark and finds Sharkey pulling out his guitar tones into lightly gliding and harmonically warmed sound shapes, which latter have more power/ angularity about them. We have the looping and unbalancing almost roundabout tone harmonics of “Puget Sound Backlash” which slides in at the six and a half minute mark. With the disc/ album topped off with the just over thirteen minutes of “Scorpion Bowl”- here we find a mix of coldly cascading vibe like hits and taut cable twangs.  These are set into drifting off hazes of reverbed sound shadows and brooding tone simmers- which later both hint at both tension and terror

I’ll have to admit more often than not I’m underwhelmed by most experimental-to-ambient guitar scaping- finding it often predictable and cliched in its tropes and delivery. But from the first play of Presets I was taken by what Sharkey is doing here- he’s managed to create a varied, impactful, and unsettling-to- oddly soothing record, that keeps pulling me back in again and again.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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