JON DURANT & STEPHAN THELEN – Crossings

Alchemy 2021

JON DURANT &
STEPHAN THELEN –
Crossings

Looking for a path to take them to the other side of midnight, a pair of guitar avant-gardists embark upon a celestial journey.

If two masters of minimalistic approach to music join their forces, would their combined effort still seem as entrancingly stark? Yes and no. While individual elements of the resulting opus are as minuscular as ever, the entire aural imagery is akin to what a kaleidoscope produces – minus randomness, of course, because the amount of thought and emotion that went into it was enormous. Factor in the concepts which became the titles of Stephan Thelen’s "Fractal Guitar" and Jon Durant’s "Alternate Landscapes" – and the Covid-imposed remote method of work on the two guitarists’ album – and “Crossings” shall turn into a loosely woven web of wonder.

It’s not really important who plays what part here and what sort of effects-infused and electronica-stricken instruments each performer uses, yet the majestic tangibility of these seven pieces is of substance – no matter how ethereal they are. There’s no contradiction, though, as suggested right from the beginning by the groove of “Vol de Nuit” – one of several numbers that were originally housed on Thelen’s solo records and have been upscaled to include another dimension now, with Durant’s delicate embellishments – where pulsing beats serve as a center for a sorrowfully riveting movement of the ever-shifting six-string waves, lapping and overlapping to shroud the listener in the ultimate romanticism. The epic start is required to prepare the ear for the delight-laden, light-dappled “Sunrise” which will spread its echoing dewdrops and meandering rays around, interweaving liquid lines and looped strum, before the recursive sonics take the even longer “Mise en Abyme” on a spiral, constantly evolving trip through a Möbius strip, rocking and rolling towards the album’s finale, “Infinity” – the only abstract, in a nebulous way, cut on offer.

However, its progressive title track is building momentum almost imperceptibly, allowing otherworldly – or very earthly, once the comparisons with pedal steel and slide emerge – sparse sounds to gradually grow in scope and fill all the auricular space, this vast expanse that can hardly hold Jon and Stephan’s melodic reach. But after “Fractal 5.7” has dissipated tension and unfolded inobtrusive grandeur via bold, astounding passages, “Dream Sequence” floats upon tribal rhythms and oscillating patterns which flow in and out of focus and help the artists cross over to a better version of our world. The version they created.

*****

August 10, 2021

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