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YEAR IN REVIEW

Mark Sullivan’s Best Releases of 2019

Read "Mark Sullivan’s Best Releases of 2019" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Another year, another diverse group of releases. There were an unusual percentage of albums outside of jazz for me this year, for whatever reason. Although I opted not to review any albums by pianist/composer Satoko Fujii, she released five diverse projects—even after her 2018 marathon of an album a month to celebrate her 60th birthday—so I would like to acknowledge her remarkable productivity and stylistic range. This is a chronological list, not a ranking. Stephan Thelen

ALBUM REVIEW

Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar Remixes and Extra Tracks

Read "Fractal Guitar Remixes and Extra Tracks" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Swiss guitarist-composer Stephan Thelen (leader of the band Sonar) released his first solo album Fractal Guitar (Moonjune Records, 2019) to great acclaim. This remix album offers a dramatic new look at four of the original five tracks--only “Radiant Day" is skipped--as well as adding three new tracks from Thelen and two collaborators. The remix album begins as the original did, with “Briefing for a Descent into Hell." Thelen's remix makes a more direct statement, cutting almost immediately to ...

ALBUM REVIEW

Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar

Read "Fractal Guitar" reviewed by John Kelman

For his Moonjune Records debut, Stephan Thelen, USA-born/Swiss guitarist and primary composer for the post-minimalist/post-progressive band Sonar, challenges some of the foundational premises of a group that has, over almost the last decade, garnered increasing critical and popular acclaim. As informed by Robert Fripp and the guitarist's work with (and beyond) King Crimson as it is the Zen Funk of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin and the similarly minimalist-informed Don Li, it's unlikely that Sonar's polyrhythmic, groove--heavy, tritone-based music will ever put ...

ALBUM REVIEW

Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar

Read "Fractal Guitar" reviewed by John Ephland

A guitar lover's delight, the Swiss Stephan Thelen's Fractal Guitar reeks of the many splendid effects the instrument can bellow, belch, intimate, cry out and sing. And all within the narrow yet liberating, pattern-based corridors Thelen's ofttimes arhythmic funkfest conjures. With nods to David Torn, Robert Fripp, Glenn Branca and even Nik Bartsch, the aesthetic creates the illusion of one-chord jamming from track to track. Closer listening reveals a multi-layered soundscape. Like Bartsch, who can take a limited format and ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Stephan Thelen and Sonar: Minimal Grooves at Maximum Volume

Read "Stephan Thelen and Sonar: Minimal Grooves at Maximum Volume" reviewed by Geno Thackara

Sonar Live at Moods 7d Media 2018 Imagine the gamelan-infused minimalism of 1980s King Crimson crossed with the droning heavy-rock menace of Sunn O))). Imagine Steve Reich if he discovered metal and turned to devil worship. You may be approaching the distinct neighborhood of Sonar, though their strange brew is far out enough that any such comparisons can only end up falling short. There's plenty of energy behind this Swiss outfit, but it's a slow-burning ...

ALBUM REVIEW

Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar

Read "Fractal Guitar" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

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 ...


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