Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
For this debut solo album Swiss guitarist/composer Stephan Thelen reached back to his interests before the band Sonar for which he is best known. That band builds its interlocking patterns without electronic effects (other than reverb), so Thelen felt the urge to to compose and perform pieces in which effects were an integral part of the music. The album title comes from a rhythmic delay with a high feedback level that produces cascading delay patterns in odd time signatures. He also welcomed the opportunity to work with some of the many guitarists he has met over the years—and there is indeed an impressive list of guests.

The first of these has to be Markus Reuter, who contributed U8 touch guitar, soundscapes and co-production (as well as co-writing two tracks): he is the only guitarist other than Thelen to appear on every track (along with U8 touch guitar bassist Matt Tate, giving yeoman duty on the low end). The second is David Torn, electric guitarist, live looper, and co-writer on the two longest tracks, which bookend the album. He plays a role similar to his collaborations with Sonar on Vortex (RareNoiseRecords, 2018) and Live At Moods (7d Media, 2018).

Listeners who like to identify the contributions of individual players are bound to be frustrated here. Every selection has at least two guitarists in addition to the leader, with two or more credited with some kind of looping or soundscaping. The result could have easily been a dense sonic stew: the fact that it is not is a credit to both the players and the production. "Briefing For A Descent Into Hell" opens the album with a rhythmic build that soon displays David Torn in full flight—including a solo with his trademark extreme whammy bar attack—before concluding with a few minutes of looped atmospherics. "Road Movie" features guitarist Henry Kaiser: his solo includes ecstatic pitch-shifter octave leaps.

Appropriately enough, the title tune begins with the clearest demonstration of the fractal guitar technique, Thelen's echoing cascades establishing the rhythm before the rest of the rhythm section joins him. Reuter contributes a ripping U8 touch guitar solo. Closer "Urban Nightscape" is based upon an insistent rhythmic figure: like the rest of the program, it shares rhythmic DNA with Thelen's writing for Sonar, while also allowing considerable space for improvisational energy. Torn brings more manic energy, and the track (and album) concludes with five minutes of rich, varied soundscapes.

Despite considerable file sharing and overdubbing used in its creation the album has a live feel. Much of that has to be credited to drummers Manuel Pasquinelli (a fellow member of Sonar) and Benno Kaiser, as well as Matt Tate's U8 bass playing. Thelen says he wanted to "create an album that features some of the more forward-looking possibilities of...the electric guitar." Mission accomplished. Fractal Guitar is a virtual feast for guitar fans, a banquet of moods, tones and textures.

Track Listing: Briefing For A Descent Into Hell; Road Movie; Fractal Guitar; Radiant Day; Urban Nightscape.

Personnel: David Torn: electric guitar, live looping; Markus Reuter: U8 touch guitar, soundscapes; Jon Durant: cloud guitar; Matt Tate: U8 touch guitar (bass); Manuel Pasquinelli: drums; Stephan Thelen: fractal guitar, tritone guitar, blue sky guitar, granular loops, organ, samples; Bill Walker: electric guitar, live looping; Henry Kaiser: electric guitar; Barry Cleveland: guitar atmospheres, bowhammer; Andi Pupato: percussion; Benno Kaiser: drums.

Title: Fractal Guitar | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: MoonJune Records



comments powered by Disqus


Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard Album Reviews
Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard
By Mark Sullivan
January 16, 2019
Read SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk Album Reviews
SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk
By Doug Collette
January 16, 2019
Read Swingin' In Seattle, Live At The Penthouse 1966-1967 Album Reviews
Swingin' In Seattle, Live At The Penthouse 1966-1967
By Mike Jurkovic
January 16, 2019
Read Hydro 2 Album Reviews
Hydro 2
By Vitalijus Gailius
January 16, 2019
Read Heritage Album Reviews
By Tyran Grillo
January 15, 2019
Read Do Not Be Afraid Album Reviews
Do Not Be Afraid
By Gareth Thompson
January 15, 2019
Read Fairgrounds Album Reviews
By Roger Farbey
January 15, 2019

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/websites/ on line 5