Guitarist and composer Stephan Thelen's Fractal Guitar (MoonJune Records, 2018) found him stepping outside of his role in the band Sonar in a big way. An absolute feast of multiple guitars with electronic effects, live looping and soundscaping, it also featured a star-studded group of guest guitarists (not to mention a grooving rhythm section). The good news is that almost all of them are back for the second installment, along with some new friends. The original album was largely created via file sharing, a process ideally suited to pandemic conditions. So, in that sense, the procedure was surprisingly similar to the first album; if anything this one is a bit more "live" in that one track was partially recorded by a core group of musicians in a room (back in the halcyon days of November 2019).
"Cosmic Krautrock" opens the set with a familiar odd-meter groove. New drummer Andy Brugger (who alternates with Thelen's Sonar band mate Manuel Pasquinelli) is joined in the rhythm section by new touch-guitar U8 player Stefan Huth on bass, along with percussionist Andi Pupato. Pupato played on one track on the first album, but here he plays on all of the tracks, providing significant rhythmic continuity to the group sound. Solo highlights include Markus Reuter's heavily processed touch guitar, Jon Durant's blast of high energy guitar, Pupato's atmospheric percussion interlude (over soundscapes and feedback guitar), and Bill Walker's final psychedelic guitar solo.
The title tune, of course, features Thelen's fractal guitar (a rhythmic delay that creates cascading delay patterns), as well as Reuter's glitchy touch guitar, Barry Cleveland's melodic 12-string guitar, and the first of several striking Durant fretless guitar solos. "Mercury Transit" is marked by quite a bit of solo space for the composer, first in the opening section (with Cleveland's bowed guitar and keyboardist Fabio Anile, a new recruit), then with e-bow. "Ladder To The Stars" is built upon Anile's striking 11/8 bass line, played by Andy West. This is the track built upon a live session, with West, Chris Muir's electric guitar and live looping, Thelen's electric guitar, and guitarist Henry Kaiser (who plays a wild glitched solo near the end). "Point Of Inflection" closes the album with Cleveland as co-composer (also playing bowed guitar, a memorably melodic solo, and a lovely fuzz guitar ensemble), and no less than three David Torn solos.
Once again, Thelen and his collaborators have crafted a banquet of odd-meter grooves (which always feel completely natural) and guitars, guitars, guitars! Enthusiastically recommended to fans of the first installment. Thelen has mentioned a number of contributions that will appear in the remix version something to look forward to.
Cosmic Krautrock; Fractal Guitar 2; Mercury Transit; Ladder To The Stars; Celestial Navigation; Point Of Inflection.
Stephan Thelen: electric guitar, choppy organ, granular synth, programming, fractal guitar, e-bow, keyboards; David Torn: electric guitar, live looping; Markus Reuter: touch guitar U8, soundscapes; Henry Kaiser: electric guitar; Jon Durant: electric guitar, cloud guitar, fretless guitar, VCS3 guitar: Bill Walker: electric guitar, live looping, lap steel; Barry Cleveland: 6 & 12-string guitar, bowed guitar, Revox loops; Chris Muir: electric guitar, live looping; Fabio Anile: keyboards, electric piano; Stefan Huth: touch guitar U8 (bass); Andy West: bass guitar; Andi Pupato: percussion; Manuel Pasquinelli: drums; Andy Brugger: drums.