Aural allusions of Johannes Vermeer’s work as treated in Transatlantic strokes – luminescent and elusive – by two six-strings stalwarts.
Englishman Wingfield and American Kastning’s fifth collaborative album in five years is very difficult to grasp and very easy to admire, just like the peculiarity of the Dutch painter whose art they reference here. A follow-up to their 2015 solo records – Kevin’s "Otherworld" and Mark’s "Proof Of Light" – couldn’t be anything other than an exercise in refracting, with a fretboard, the rays that run through our windows and a study in chasing shadows to make an image disappear. Yet however abstract this premise may seem, the guitarists focused the melodies by having a copy of Vermeer masterpieces in front of them, each set in a different room, and playing spontaneously to preserve a live sensation, with tension between Wingfield’s electric and Kastning’s acoustic instruments as a means to eschew compartmental breaks and finesse a flow.
The sheer wonder of the result is breathtaking, and once the strum of “A Letter At A Window: Opening” has filled the silence, the tremble of a charge adds a new dimension to the strings’ tight-but-loose twine, its folk strain stricken with jazzy strays, while the Hollander’s use of ultramarine gets manifested in “American Midwest: Touch” via bottom-end-minded bursts of blues. But where the hints of reeds come into the picture – there’s no wind involved, of course – “The Slumber” slides towards fusion, “A Letter At A Window: Message” is solemnly applying sustain to baroque canvas, and the sparse splashes of “A Letter At A Window: Epilogue” evokes musique concrète over the uplifting course of its 15 minutes, although, again, no external sound has seeped through the glass of notes.
At the same time, “A Shadow And Folding” and “A Balance In Light” explore dynamic contrast in unhurried lyrical glissandos, yet they follow Vermeer’s technique of coloring a detail over tonal foundation, and it’s there that spirituality of it all is revealed, so palpable against the percussive angularity of “The Eighth Room” – splinters of merriment in a sensual gloom – which separates those two-part suites. Wrapping up the gentle experience, “The Allegory Of Painting” flutters as a concise summary of what’s been before, a penumbral aftertaste of it: a fitting finale for a triumph of synaesthesia and musical telepathy.