STEPHAN THELEN – Fractal Guitar

MoonJune 2019

STEPHAN THELEN - Fractal Guitar

STEPHAN THELEN –
Fractal Guitar

Refracting sonic wonders through the prism of temporal space, Swiss artist harnesses ultimate elusiveness.

Happening that takes place over time may feel like an oxymoron yet that’s what this album is all about: it’s seizing a shift from momentary to momentous as has long been an MO for both SONAR six-stringer and the label his first solo record landed at. With fractals meaning expanding symmetry, there’s a lot of fretboard pairs involved, and though Stephan Thelen captured colleagues where and when it was possible to record together, what resulted from various sessions would be his and his only, as he decided, after a long period of not applying the method, to use a delay which gave a title to the master’s first effort under his own name.

Five spacious soundscapes on display may seem menacing and require stamina from the listeners who never know whether they will see the light in the end of these aural tunnels, but there are always instrumental voices – those friendly fractals – to guide a curious mind through a quietly boggling experience. That’s why “Briefing For A Descent Into Hell” – its unhurried yet ever-deepening groove is filled with deceptively random effects that move in and out of focus before guitar solo unfolds – must be perceived as a start of infernal trip and also a means to an end, a preparation for less epic if more intense fusion of electricity and electronics. The fiber feels tight, making the task of discerning between Thelen’s threads and his latter-day collaborator David Torn’s lines on the alluringly lyrical clang of “Radiant Day” or Henry Kaiser’s on the joyously, deliriously even, heavy throb of “Road Movie” impossible; still, immersed in such a tuneful vortex, one wouldn’t wonder or care about these details, all woven in an intricate cloth by producer Markus Reuter whose touch isn’t hard to hear on the record’s every cut.

It’s a rippled vibe that matters here, where straightforward melodic delivery is simultaneously mandatory and dangerous in order to allow esoteric riffs reign for a while and move on, letting translucent, albeit insistent, strum mesmerize an ear with a precarious folk dance. This dance doesn’t have an iota of dissonance, with the title track revealing most delicate – rendered in mirror-like flicker – mosaic of echoing notes which hint at escape possibilities only to hang in there, in watercolor intensity. And then there’s “Urban Nightscape” to warp and warm up nocturnal sirens’ wails until they evaporate and leave the nagging desire to delve into the album again – to seize all the elusive elements of what has just been there. Momentary, momentous and monumental work.

*****

February 8, 2019

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