Ethereal if muscular, renown guitarist’s new acoustic trip results in punchy gratification.
Following in the wake of Kevin Kastning’s music is akin to stepping behind the Pied Piper without knowing his destination, but it’s difficult not to think at some point whether the artist himself knows the final point of this journey, because he’s led by instruments, rather than other way around, and relies on his instincts, rather than solid plan. Intrigue serves KK well, though, and continuing the approach applied to "17/66" – the American’s previous solo effort, released earlier in the year – he splits the “66” into original fractions, 30-string contra-alto guitar and 36-string double contraguitar, and combines them to a great effect.
KK’s attacking these strings in “Wotruba I” with quite an unexpected force ` leaves long, pregnant pauses between short series of notes to conjure majestic tension before dissolving it in a delicate, if deceptively dissonant, Renaissance-styled tune and then snapping the piece’s scope back to a ripple. Just as unpredictably, “Bahuya I” has bluesy eeriness to the strum that may seem static until slight variations develop a melody – clear in a folksy way and welcoming, too – only to assault the fretboard one more time.
If focus feels somewhat lost in larger numbers such as “Bahuya II” whose parts are stitched together in a sort of haphazard fashion, it’s only because more time is needed to assess a full picture KK is painting here. Still, there’s a lot of wonder in “Wotruba II” where intensely woven quasi-traditional motifs conspire to create an enchanting soundscape, for this dynamic space to be inhabited by “Malleus Anguli” and tenderly hammered into angular shapes with the cut’s two parts.
But while “Wotruba III” is a trip into non-surf-like twang and emotional thrash, “Aequus Nox I” – another diptych on the loosely concept album – fares as nocturnal as its title suggests, and also infernal. These fire and darkness are essential to the master’s method: which is why following in the wake of his music can’t be more exciting.