I've been knocked out by Kevin Kastning's acoustic guitar duet works for a number of years; they compose a catalogue of unceasingly and uniformly excellent work...though not for everyone, as a set of highly developed aesthetics and other art-minded sentiments within literate intelligence are requisite to any hope of fully enjoying what's so somberly being entablatured. It was, in fact, exactly that sort of pan-dimensional brain milieu, an environment of requiring as much out of the listener as of the artist, that persuaded me to drop a years-long eschewel of conducting interviews and initiate a colloquy with Kastning that turned into a seminar on aesthetics and has just been published in Perfect Sound Forever, one of the very few venues I choose to write for other than FAME. The interview is one of the three most favorite I've ever done—and I've done a fair amount, including with Morton Subotnick, Dream Theater, Tomasz Stanko, etc.—the other two being talks with Copernicus and then Michael Mantler. Check it out if you have the time, as I suspect some of the things we both say will spark a controversy or two within music appreciation spheres.
Gravity of Shadows is the latest in a series Kastning has issued with his other long-time playing partner Siegfried (the first partner is Sandor Szabo), and the differences between the two pairs is quite distinct though tonally similar. Gravity contains 25 cuts and runs a full 76:31, so the immersion process here is complete and intoxicating. Though I've forever made plenteous mention of all of Kastning's work to the epochal Towner / Abercrombie ECM duets and Bill Connors' darkest materials, there are many markers that set Kevin's pairings apart, the main of which is the perpetual and exquisitely gloomy, drear, baroque, Gothic landscapery saturating every second of each CD. Although the music is always worlds apart from ensembles like, say, Univers Zero, there is nonetheless a masterful completeness of worldscaping and atmospherics that draw comparisons: in UZ work, Hell is erupting on one side of a grave shrouded planet while Kastning paints laconic Piranesi / Tanguy canvases of the quiet other hemisphere.
Each CD's track titles are always unimportant as such but, when paid attention to, especially here, they chart the motion of the movements of what is actually a large segmented composition. Paradoxically, none of this is actually pre-planned, everything occurring right there and right then in the studio, totally dependent on the cybernetics of the players when the two meet (Kastning resides in Massachusetts while Siegfried lives in Maine). Thus, this being the case and personality/mentation dominating in varying configurations, the dueting with Siegfried is airier, much less dense, and more abstractedly melancholy than the Kastning/Szabo CDs, resulting in an almost tropic mode…albeit a chilly balminess 'neath never-ending cloud ceilings and mostly barren scenarios. If you've ever wondered how on Earth aesthetes can contemplate such almost (but not quite!) baleful moods and visions, I can tell you that it's just a matter of beauty of a different order, and Gravity of Shadows is one of my foremost proofs.
For a bit more on the descriptive side, see here), here, and elsewhere in FAME, and, no, I'm not going to list all 25 of the song titles to this disc because all this reviewing and interviewing in FAME and elsewhere has over-developed my writing fingers to such an extent that I can snap Arnold Schwartzenegger's neck like a twig and fear I just might (he's my gawdam governor out here in SoCal!). So, for the sake of political tranquility, I'll forego anything that might aggravate the situation. In fact, maybe I'll send him my copy of Gravity, might jar him out of his idiotic Republican ways.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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