Michael C Sharp released his debut album on Holodeck Records last year titled Never Enough Time. It was a heady and densely layered collection of guitar loops and synths woven together to form these dream-like songs. Elements of Steve Reich and Rhys Chatham; as well as guitar touches inspired by guys like Gunter Schickert, Achim Reichel, and Matt Baldwin peppered the album. Sharp let the loops create the rhythmic foundation, much like the synth pulse Edgar Froese used to create his works.
For his most recent album, Sharp is continuing the pulse-like quality of last year’s Never Enough Time. But with this album, titled End Times in Babylon, his inspiration is more of a visceral one. He’s scoring to paintings by artist Conner O’Leary. O’Leary provided the ethereal artwork that donned Never Enough Time. This led to the multi-media project that became Sharp’s End Times in Babylon. Originally Sharp was going to play live at O’Leary’s gallery and book premiere, but due to scheduling conflicts he couldn’t attend. So he recorded the songs beforehand so they could be played in his absence. The result is the stunning digital and cassette release End Times in Babylon, songs inspired by paintings and named after the writings of Eva Claycomb, Will Gaynor, and Andy Rihn(which are featured in the book as well.)
The songs Mike Sharp has committed to tape here are like patchworks. These interwoven musical pieces that form dream-like movements. Much like his debut last year, I’m reminded of Steve Reich and his compositional style of weaving varying instruments in and out of his pieces without you hardly noticing. Sharp does that here on tracks like “The Plants Grow as They Wish” and the epic “Babylon”. The former has a more organic quality to it, with the Michael Rother-like guitar lines seeming to form from nature itself. He eases into this slightly psychedelic world O’Leary created, letting us get a lay of the land. The latter is a heady Berlin School escape into deep space. You can almost see stars and planets forming a universe in front of your eyes as the song builds on a foundation of synths and a vast, sonic landscape. There’s a trance-like quality here that bleeds right over into “Waspwolves”. Sharp is tapping into serious Komische vibes here. It puts me in mind of something like Jonas Munk’s Absorb Fabric Cascade or Klaus Schulze’s 80s output.
I think what is so amazing here is how Mike Sharp captures the mood of the O’Leary paintings. Conner O’Leary creates a very specific space and world in his work. Despite the impressionistic quality, you still feel as if you could walk right into those paintings and exist in some Dali-esque plane. Sharp’s compositions sound like the ringing and pulsations one might hear transcending from this world to that.
Elsewhere, tracks like “Ziggurats” and “Yes You” build up a certain Euro propulsion. Like Brian Eno and Allan Parsons Project deep-diving into La Düsseldorf. “How Many Found God Watching” is all white light and ambient decadence. The music captures the title perfectly, with a slight sense of unease underneath. “End Times” closes the album out on a calmer, down-to-earth mood. A bit of a new age feel, it feels like succumbing and breathing easy as you’re engulfed in some obvious, inevitable truth.
End Times in Babylon is one of those unique projects that doesn’t come along often enough. Its sole purpose is to serve the art it was influenced by. In this case, these are songs written to accompany paintings and words. It’s a beautifully and interwoven multimedia project, and the songs Michael C Sharp created for it work as part of a whole, or completely on their own.
Babylon is a stunning place to be.
8.2 out of 10