The prolific Kevin Kastning comes up with another new album, this time collaborating with Mark Wingfield, an equally talented and inventive UK based guitarist. Rubycon I has just been released, although it was recorded at Kevin’s Massachusetts studio in 2018, live in the studio and face to face, something that’s not been possible for the past year obviously. It is another absorbing and fascinating recording by two guitarists with quite different approaches who seem to complement each other’s playing almost telepathically. The compositions have been worked up live and are almost entirely improvised ‘in the moment’, each musician reacting to the other, the music evolving quite magically.
For much of the album, Mark Wingfield plays guitar which sounds anything but a guitar. He uses live software processing to create sounds which are often more orchestral in nature, or else sounding like synthesisers, but all the time the source of these strange sounds are his guitar. Kevin Kastning’s guitar playing against these soundscapes is quite different, recognisable as guitar, but no normal guitar of course. His self-designed multi-string guitars have such a range of sounds it’s hard to accept that they are being played on one instrument for each composition. For variation in sound and texture, Kastning also plays piano on two tracks, so the result is six pieces which all sound quite different, each having their own personality and structure whilst retaining a sense of belonging together.
Event Horizon eases us into this strange and beguiling sound world with a wash of spacey sounds from Wingfield against which Kastning’s 36-string contraguitar overlays some deep bass sounds, a wonderful organic and rich irregular pattern, ever changing and shifting as the soundscape evolves in tone and mood.
Comoving Distance features guitar squeaks and squeals from Wingfield that sound as though they have come from another world, possibly the world of the Clangers, with rushes of dancing and chattering electric notes reaching skywards, whilst Kastning produces bass rumblings and reverberating contraguitar seemingly plucked from the bowels of the universe. It is a conversation between contrasting elemental forces, and totally absorbing.
The following two pieces both feature Kastning on piano, which in many ways seems to lead the compositions forward initially. Having not heard Kevin’s piano pieces before, these are a revelation to me. His abstract sense of momentum and colour create vivid pictures which Wingfield complements with his processed guitarscapes and flurries of notes vying for the listener’s attention. The Lensing is particularly effective, with Kastning’s piano underpinning the exploratory guitar from Wingfield, the interweaving piano and guitar building and subsiding in waves.
On Loop Quantum, Kastning returns to his beloved 36-string contraguitar for a piece recorded at the end of the session. The ambient sound of heavy rain on the studio roof can be heard at the start, which almost scuppered the recording, but they decided to press on regardless. It was a good decision because the atmosphere of the piece is unique, with a vibrant energy present as both players feed off each other in turn. Long sustained notes play well against the ultra-low contraguitar notes, then energy builds, increasing in urgency, with Mark producing laughing guitar runs as they race towards a conclusion.
The final track is the magnum opus of this collection, a symphonic concerto almost, for processed electric guitar and 17-string classical guitar. At over 19-minutes, it is by far the longest piece, but conversely seems to slip by in half that time. Wingfield’s treated guitar hardly sounds like a guitar at all throughout this work, instead making sounds more akin to keys, synths and strings. This gives the track a very orchestral flavour, with echoing tones arcing through the air, whilst Kastning reacts to each changing tone on the 17-string guitar, adding harmonic textures to each evolving section of the piece. It mutates slowly and naturally leading to its satisfying conclusion.
So whilst this sort of abstract compositional style might not appeal to everyone, it cannot be denied that these two musicians are truly progressive in their pioneering quest to find new sound worlds, and this album proves to those willing to listen how accessible and rewarding their explorations can be. As usual, the sessions proved fruitful, and as the title suggests, there is another album in the can from these recordings, so that’s something to look forward to. In the meantime, I thoroughly recommend giving this wonderful collaboration a listen.
01. Event Horizon (8:39)
02. Comoving Distance (9:04)
03. Dynamic Horizon (10:52)
04. The Lensing (10:45)
05. Loop Quantum (7:43)
06. Particle Horizon (19:35)
Total Time – 66:38
Kevin Kastning – Piano, 36-string Double Contraguitar, 17-string Hybrid Classical Guitar, 15-string Extended Classical Guitar
Mark Wingfield – Electric Guitar, Live Electronics (Software Processing)
Record Label: Greydisc Records
Recorded: Studio Traumwald, Massachusetts, U.S.A. (16th-17th August 2018)
Mixed & Mastered: Heron Island Studio, Cambridgeshire, U.K.
Date of Release: 9th March 2021