STEPHAN THELEN – Fractal Guitar 3

MoonJune 2022

Fractal Guitar 3

Another sound-bending journey towards infinite discovery of fantastic forms concealed in a sea of ordered noise.

It’s about time Stephan Thelen’s coterie started fretting about his sanity because, having designed the “fractal guitar” technique, the Swiss arist opened a Pandora’s box of endless possibilities that can make lesser mortals collapse under their weight, and his detours into remixing of well-formed material will hardly plug the gaps in prospects of this vastness. Still, Stephan forges ahead, and another installment in the master’s series is a proof of Thelen’s firm refusal to cease surprising those who follow him on the route to a new adventure – both passively, as percipients, and actively, as fellow performers – aimed at unlocking secrets of the Universe. There, the process must always seem more important than the result, yet capturing the transience may become a goal per se too.

That’s an art in itself – to stitch such epic as “Through The Stargate” from what could be felt as ether, yet there’s aural gauze prepared by Thelen’s friends and hypnotically coming off their looms to loom larger and larger against his textural strum. The gossamer tissue should slowly banish the piece’s initial riff, stoked by Yogev Gabay’s drums, out of the picture for Eivind Aarset’s six-string twang to boggle the listener’s mind before Markus Reuter’s touch axe raves and Jon Durant’s fretless flight paints exquisite loops below and beyond the atmosphere. However, if the delicate, albeit cosmically fractured, interplay between Aarset’s E-bow, Fabio Anile’s synthesizers and Stefan Huth’s bass is better heard on this number’s alternative, shortened cut, an integrally important bonus here – as is the folk-informed “Morning Star” which will weave Bill Walker’s exotic guitars into the vibrant waves wrapped around the soundscapes the international ensemble sculpt with unhurried assuredness of intrepid explorers who know how their varied methods aimed at the same point are as arresting as unified approach.

So when Andi Pupato and Manuel Pasquinelli add sophisticated grooves to the electric and electronic pulses of “Glitch” to dissipate its rhythmic logic over the sonic space and replace the order with irresistible melody, the collective’s playful setting is laid alluringly bare, while the genuine magic consolidates in “Ascension” where J. Peter Schwalm’s ivories provide not-too-imaginary ground for the finger-picking orchestra to roam among the bells. But then, the musicians locate their dancing-on-ice feet for “Black On Electric Blue” to see Barry Cleveland’s psychedelic passages properly spiked and spiced up with delicious licks and glacial glissandos. Fractal guitars and fun don’t mutually exclusive after all, so there’s logic, a different kind thereof, in endless possibilities morphing into a joyride rather than insanity.


February 9, 2023

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