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November & December 2015 Short Takes

Sundaug "Nocturnality" 2015 Sundaug is Stephen Bonitatibus, whose latest recording is Nocturnality, a combination of acoustic guitar with elecontrica subtly interwoven in, around, and under the dominant guitar themes. By combining guitar and electronica, Bonitatibus adds layers of textures and dynamics to his music, to good effect. The CD features fine melody-making on the guitar, with easily accessible songs, making for a good listening experience. The 14 tunes reflect various genres and influences from the acoustic music world, wihtout any copycat, nor random noodling that plagued the "new acoustic" genre for a while. These are structured songs with discernible development. The songs are sweet ("Breath of Spring," "Snowman's Waltz" ), sassy ("Pyramid"), reflective ("When Solitude Becomes Isolation," "The Submersion"), and uplifting ("Mount Olympus"). I don't have a sense that Bonitatibus is trying to impress anyone with a "wow!" factor on Nocturnality, just create enjoyable music to both play and hear. And he does that. A fine CD of good acoustic guitar music. © Kirk Albrecht

Kevin Kastining "Otherworld" 2015 Otherworld is a very apt title for Kevin Kastning's 19th - but first solo - album of splintery, spikey atmospheric soundscapes. Kastning has composed over 200 works and has recorded albums with Alex de Grassi, Michael Manring, Mark Wingfield, and many others. He is also an inventor of various "contraguitars," strange beasts such as the 36-string Double Contraguitar, which is played upright and has two thick vertical necks; a 30-string contra-alto guitar; a 15-string extended classical guitar; and a 12-string soprano guitar, all of which he plays here (along with a "normal" 6-string classical). These guitars allow him to extend ranges, voices, and sonorities way beyond the norm. Kastning's compositions have the effect of being invented on the spot, as if he is letting each note or chord guide him to the next, like mystical signs in a forest. The 16 original pieces segue seamlessly into one another, creating the effect of a symphony than a collection of songs. This is atonal, avant-garde experimental music, with hints of Pat Methany and John McLaughlin, which eschews melody or easy hooks for the listener to grab onto. Sometimes Kastning focuses on specific sounds, letting them reverberate (the opening of "Lingua Ignota"); sometimes he plays with echoes, overtones, or percussive elements ("Into Glance Turning"). "Drifting Thread and Wonder" is one of the few fast-paced virtuosic and percussive pieces here, and ejects energy into the middle of the album. One of the most striking compositions is "Present Red and Vanishing," which has an ominous spooky quality that relies on long pauses, dark colors, and bursts of fast runs threaded by very short but lovely melodic phrases. One of the prettiest pieces is "Arc Rotation Shadow," full of delicacy and poignancy, with shimmers of notes like sparkles of light on leaves. Overall, this is difficult music that requires repeated listening and full attention to appreciate. But for those willing to follow Kastning's explorations, Otherworld is a satisfying journey into the music of a very original, modern talent. © Céline Keating

Dez Cordas "Pilgrimage" 2015 Dez Cordas is an innovative and inventive duo consisting of Craig Butterfield on upright bass and Mathew Slotkin on classical guitar. Pilgrimage is their third offering and features an eclectic collection of contemporary classical compositions. Butterfield directs an acclaimed Double Bass and Jazz Studies program at the University of South Carolina, whereas Slotkin heads the guitar department at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. Both are critically acclaimed performers with extensive touring experience. Pilgrimage begins with Alex Wilder’s "Suite for String Bass and Guitar" and sets the stage for this audacious recording. The piece contains soft reflective interludes and intricate, syncopated lines. Butterfield’s elegantly bowed upright is absolutely stunning using registers normally reserved for cellists. Slotkin’s articulate fret board harmonies and expressive single note excursions grace the recording, perfectly complementing Butterfield’s bass. The dramatic refrains of the title track"Pilgrimage" features lush melodic imagery, while the playful "Song and Dance Man" contains tantalizing interplay between the two. The album culminates with the Spanish tinged themes of Annette Kruisbrink’s "Five Dances" providing a welcomed and invigorating diversion. The program here is varied and adventurous matched by immaculately executed performances. Dez Cordas’s Pilgrimage is highly recommended for fans of contemporary classical and discerning listeners wanting to challenge their musical horizons. © James Scott





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