The release of any CD by guitarist Kevin Kastning is always a very welcome event, whether solo or in tandem with other musicians, but this one, with the return of brass and winds player Carl Clements (sax is hybrid brass/wind), is particularly striking for its maturities even beyond Kastning's already documented deep thought structures and Clements' demonstrated acumen. The latter gent was impressive in twice falling (here and here) comfortably into Kevin's dark, brooding, fascinating, and highly literate greymist world but this time seems to have strikingly affected the guitarist's outlook, just as fully invested in every passing second of the recording.
The first cut, A Transparency Through is chamber music of the highest order, novo-neoclassical but with the ancientest of pastoralities bridging West to East, Clements more than once assuming the supernal vocabulary and colorations of a shakahuchi wafting out from the most introspective of meditations in a forbidding Tibetan monastery high in barren mountains. That atmosphere persists through the entire length of the seven cuts. Kastning is unbelievably restrained, but, God, what a wealth of brooding emotion and terrene/cosmic insight wells up in the relative quietude of it all! I've never heard him this reserved yet absolutely precise in every note and chord, never the slightest bit off the mark, hitting a zen paradox of so much with so little. His main axes are two of the many the ever-searching player has invented over the years: the 36-string double contra-guitar and the 30-string contra-soprano guitar, and they shimmer with eerie resonances and full-throated rumbling austerities.
Kastning never stops looking for precisely the correct sound and then, once it's located, immediately proceeds to peer beyond that to the next possibility. This has intrigued luthiers no end, not to mention musicians and constantly fascinated audiences, whether they're attending concerts in Europe or wearing out CDs through repeated listens. Watercolor Sky is the very essence of what Oregon created, why the ECM label rose to its heights, and a ne plus ultra in modern art, stunningly remarkable…but not, I'm afraid, a work for the Everyman, though I dearly wish it were otherwise. This is art clearly standing out as a set of modern classical opuses, requiring a well developed set of aesthetics to fully appreciate. It can occupy no other niche and deserves regard alongside Glass, Bryars, Takemitsu, and myriad idiosyncratic others. I've received a wealth of incredibly good CDs this year, but this one tops them all. Riveting.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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