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Fractal Sextet: Fractal Sextet


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Fractal Sextet: Fractal Sextet
In the over two-decade-old "movement" that's come to be known as Swiss Minimalism, guitarist Stephan Thelen has pushed himself to the fore, both with his group Sonar and in solo projects. In recent years, he's been astonishingly prolific (releasing five albums from 2021-2022 alone). With recent group work in Sonar being expanded to include guitarist David Torn, his Fractal Guitar album series (Moonjune, 2019, 2021, 2022) garnering critical acclaim, live albums, Bill Laswell remixes, and his World Dialogue (Rare Noise, 2020) album—featuring his compositions played by both the Kronos Quartet and the Al Pari Quartet—he shows no signs of slowing down.

The next evolutionary step Thelen has taken is to expand his Fractal Guitar concept is manifest on Fractal Sextet, the intent being to have a larger, more interactive (and set) ensemble to interpret his musical ideas—together, in real-time—as opposed to guest appearances on tracks and overdubbing. While in reality the notion was only partially achieved on this recording (due to travel restrictions and pandemic-related issues), the overall effect on Fractal Sextet is an advance and a delight.

Still boasting Thelen's visionary soundscapes and sonic designs, the music here indeed has that ineffable boost that a group entity can only impart. Also too, where Thelen's conceptualism may have been necessarily tight in past endeavors to be effectual, he's allowed the necessary extra room in this context for the sextet to shine.

This highlights the shrewd choices Thelen has made in picking his five co-conspirators for Fractal Sextet. Ambient pianist Fabio Anile and former Nik Bärtsch's Ronin percussionist Andi Pupato seem ideal matches to Thelen's thoughtfully conceived matrices and general sense of space. Former Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin adds a finely tuned balance of bass presence and integration to his propulsiveness while Jon Durant's guitar is a near-perfect stylistic counter to Thelen's—as evidenced on previous Fractal Guitar outings. It is notable that Durant's nuanced fretless guitar work throughout Fractal Sextet shows he is one of the precious few practitioners on the instrument that elevate it beyond its usual presence as a mere novelty.

But the prize addition to these proceedings is perhaps drummer Yogev Gabay. The Israeli-born drum phenom (and veteran of Berklee's powerful Middle Eastern and Indian Ensembles) finds a way to express his formidable technique with an instinctive musicality that molds it appropriately to Thelen's compositions. He also provides the interactive spark that raises the mercury on the performances of all involved. (See especially the incendiary break with Pupato on "Planet 9" and the lock with Edwin on the album-closing "Slow Over Fast.")

It seems amazing that Thelen can both be so productive and keep upping the ante on his own projects, but that's exactly what he's achieved with Fractal Sextet. In light of this album's success, it's indeed tantalizing to imagine how the next album from this group might sound if Thelen's vision (and process) for this band can be fully realized. It certainly will be worth tuning in for.

Track Listing

Zeptoscope; Fractal 5.7; Planet Nine; Mise en Abyme; Slow over Fast; Point of Inflection (download only).


Fractal Sextet: band / orchestra; Stephan Thelen: guitar, electric; Fabio Anile: keyboards; Jon Durant: guitar, electric; Colin Edwin: bass; Yogev Gabay: drums; Andi Pupato: percussion.

Additional Instrumentation

Fabio Anile: piano, electric piano, synthesizer, sampled instruments; Jon Durant: fretted, fretless & cloud guitars; Colin Edwin: bass guitar; Yogev Gabay: drums; Andi Pupato: percussion; Stephan Thelen: guitars, e-bow, fractal delays & programming; Barry Cleveland: guitars, bowed guitar (6).

Album information

Title: Fractal Sextet | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Alchemy Records

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