Aural experiments as a means to create weird wonders that can’t cease to spellbind.
It takes a special state of mind, if not soul, to be mesmerized by Kevin Kastning’s albums. Armed with multi-strings guitars, the American produces records of stunning complexity that don’t offer simple pleasures but propose thoughtful sinking into snippets of melodies stitched together in the most adventurous manner – which is never haphazard despite seeming so. There’s a high order too all of it on “17/66”: a realization of KK’s harmonic blocks concept (explained on his website for those who grasp music theory) presented in three suites, each comprised of three pieces – disjointed and angular, in a Lego kind of way, and, again in a Lego kind of way, allowing to build strangely alluring structrures.
The increasingly sharp shards of “7476 fW” are laid out thick enough to create something akin to stained glass and spread surrealism on all frequencies before “23 dV” – another fragment of “1230z” – pull its apart and renders pauses part of the performance, with folk motif lurking in the shadows to let the predatory “152 BL” in the open.
The “ML-G/137” trilogy is different, though, as a sprawling “0.84 m3” sets to pursue solemn resonance, and “64 m3” to smear the silence with even lower tones, rippling subaquatically and trying to bring deeper truths of life to the conscious fore and release surface tension, whereas “13.10m” is constructing an imposing edifice from a delicately woven strum.
Even more crystalline, the “CotHT” hat-trick has “30 mL” flow fluidly through tones and tempos, filling the space with suspense and never leaving this echoing soundscape where strings are attacked with a pinch of violence, yet “22 mW” turns this touch into caressing presence as a melody is emerging from gentle, if still muscular, strokes, and “15.5 Mh” is growing dynamically until it reaches gloomy Gothic grandiosity.
The result of this experiment is otherworldly and well-grounded at the same time. Whether the innovation of “17/66” will set a new music standard, remains to be seen.