Guitarist/composer Stephan Thelen presents the third installment of his Fractal Guitar series. Like the previous albums, the emphasis is on multiple guitars, layered in kaleidoscopic arrangements based on his compositions and guitar playing, but significantly colored by the contributions of his collaborators. This edition was also influenced by the other albums that he was working on simultaneously: Transneptunian Planets with J. Peter Schwalm, Eivind Aarset, Tim Harries and Manuel Pasquinelli (RareNoiseRecords, 2022); Fractal Sextet with Jon Durant, Fabio Anile, Colin Edwin, Andi Pupato and Yogev Gabay (Alchemy Records, 2022); and Music for Piano and Strings (Self Produced, 2023), an album of piano quintets and string quartets with compositions by Anile and Thelen. These concurrent projects provided both musical ideas and new players to add to the Fractal Guitar talent pool.
"Through The Stargate" opens the album with significant contributions from guitarist Eivind Aarset, a new Fractal Guitar guest who is also credited as a co-composer. After a solo full of ebow, effects and noises he plays foundational melodic lines. Markus Reuter's touch-guitar solos next, using overdrive and moving from ruminative to explosive. In contrast, Jon Durant's fretless guitar solo begins screaming before slipping into a more contemplative mode. The long final coda showcases Middle Eastern-sounding Aarset guitar lines (evoking trumpeter Jon Hassell), plus Fabio Anile's atmospheric keyboards. The whole thing ends with more than two minutes of atmospheric synthesizer music: a beautiful pause in the polyrhythmic action.
"Morning Star" is a return to more typical fare, adding regular contributor Bill Walker on several unique guitar sounds. Tim Harries joins on bass guitar (along with touch guitarist Stefan Huth, returning from the previous album). Both of these tracks include exciting playing by drummer Yogev Gabay from the Fractal Sextet. "Ascension" introduces J. Peter Schwalm (playing synthesizer and electronic percussion), with more solos from Aarset, Reuter and Durant. Reuter and Schwalm are credited as co-composers. "Black On Electric Blue" brings guitarist Barry Cleveland back into the fold. He mainly contributes soundscaping, along with Reuter. Solo lines by Aarset and Reuter periodically emerge from the fog.
The final bonus track is a mix and edit of "Through The Stargate" by J. Peter Schwalm, focusing on Aarset's parts. In its shorter run time, it suggests the form of the full track while simultaneously showcasing the guitarist's distinctive sounds. A fitting end to a thrilling installment in what is proving to be a very consistent series, each unified by Thelen's distinctive rhythmic compositional style while also offering a unique mix of musicians old and new.
Through The Stargate; Morning Star; Glitch; Ascension; Black On Electric Blue; Through The Stargate (Edit).
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