Even before his 1993 emergence with Fluresence, DJ, recording artist and independent label head Jonah Sharp was already well on his way to becoming a luminary in the world of electronic music. Sharp left Scotland in his teens and became immersed in London’s acid jazz/rare groove scene as a drummer before being drawn to the blossoming “intelligent techno” genre. He subsequently relocated to Northern California, where he launched Spacetime Continuum.
Recorded live at a San Francisco multimedia event, Alien Dreamtime — a performance with author Terence McKenna and didgeridoo player Stephen Kent — only hints at Sharp’s potential with unique rhythms and timbres. Penned in by the nasal drone of McKenna’s prolonged lectures on psychedelic shamanism, the musicians are denied the breadth to truly explore the potential of such a collaboration. McKenna does step aside for interludes, but the time isn’t sufficient for Sharp and Kent to really shine, and Sharp seems reliant on techno formulae.
With Sharp the sole composer, producer and performer of Spacetime Continuum, Sea Biscuit is a wholly more satisfying affair, much more in the spirit of a debut album. The seven lengthy tracks (averaging more than ten minutes each) evolve in organic spirals that suggest forms without reiterating them to the point of over-familiarity. Sharp paints shifting aural tableaux with detailed emphasis on tone color (although his selections aren’t as exotic as Future Sound of London), particularly on the final “A Low Frequency Inversion Field.” The beats are persistent but subtle; as soon as the Kraftwerkian pops of “Pressure” begin, the collage of pulsing noises simply folds them into the mix.
Emit Ecaps finds Sharp moving away from the intersection of ambient and techno, experimenting successfully with the rhythms of jungle/drum and bass culture. Although still perfectly suitable as listening music, this is the first Spacetime Continuum album that actually invites the listener to dance. Sharp’s extensive sonic palette is undiminished, but he juggles juxtapositions of both timbre and rhythm, using light, playful breakbeats to underpin slower-moving ambient textures. “Iform” starts the ten-track collection off slowly, percolating along in a “traditional” Spacetime vibe until a funky bassline kicks in after two minutes; on “Kairo,” the musical elements slither around one another like snakes in a basket: jazz bass, staccato keyboard blips, a smidgen of banjo, the fluttering of double-time programmed drums.
Sharp is also a prodigious collaborator, with projects on his own Reflective label (known for its inventive, shiny packaging), ambient guru Pete Namlook’s Fax label and others. The two Alien Community records with Namlook are fairly similar in feel, both reminiscent of Sea Biscuit. The distinct styles of the individuals are a little more pronounced on the less interchangeable Wechselspannung albums, which find the pair experimenting with electro rhythms, among other sounds. Written and performed with the equally prolific Bill Laswell, Visitation is a dark, minimal work-practically space music.