The new Szabó / Kastning CD is out, thank God, and it's another gem in a line of duet releases carrying on the best of the old ECM 'Dark Period' wherein masters like (and one cannot, trust me, help, as I have done repeatedly, mentioning these giants when reviewing S/K) Abercrombie, Towner, Connors, Rypdal, and sundry others cloaked the world in pensive grey miasmas and lurking mystery, a vale of fascinatingly threnodic landscapes and existential-nihilistic ponderings. Returning is composed entirely of two interlocking, circling, pondering guitars, brooding presences roaming benighted landscapes, this time extending beyond the customary baritone axes invented by Kastning into new territory: the 12-string alto guitar, likewise created by same. The result, as ever, is darkly beautiful to a fault.
I've had the pleasure of reviewing several of their releases in past years, here in FAME and elsewhere, and Returning is just as its name infers, a pathway back into the unique territories Szabó and Kastning perpetually create: spare, foggy, articulate, and literary a la modernist chamber-jazz-Goth, broad meditative milieus of arcane mysteries. One is seduced into a Stygian purgatory at the very outset, cascading chords and lurking follow-lines everywhere, pinging harmonics, closely tracked rondos, mutations and the far borders of the moors, lonely vales, and wuthering heights. Some cuts, such as Engleschriet, get elegantly crazy, patchworks of energy and activity skewed up from the earth, down from fragmented skies, before resolving into fitful propriety. Then Over the Hills, the Clouds Seem so Distant settles into vaporous prosody, pastorality set within a Montana skyscape or the steppes and tundra of distant climes.
If I say that one need not start with this particular disc at all, don't take that to be a curious statement but instead highest praise, as every cut and every release is the match and mode of every other, 100% steeped in consummate artistry. These guys have, individually and as a duo, received accolades around the world from fans and critics alike...not to mention the luthiers who craft new instruments to facilitate such high-flown creativity, woodworking gents who do not extend their talents and put aside their workloads for just anyone. Nonetheless, if you're new to Szabó & Kastning, start here, because it really indeed does not matter: you'll be picking up the rest of the catalogue soon enough.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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