EDITORS NOTE: This review was originally published by Proglodytes back in January. But the album is so good, I thought it was worth repeating on this site.
STEPHAN THELEN, Fractal Guitar (MoonJune, on sale January 19)
PERSONNEL: Stephan Thelen (Guitar), Markus Reuter (U8 touch Guitar), Matt Tate (U8 touch Guitar [bass]), Manuel Pasquinelli (drums), Andi Pupato (percussion), and guest guitarists
The words “shock and awe” are rarely associated with a musical project. Yet that is precisely what Stephan Thelen’s forthcoming album, Fractal Guitar, produces upon listening.
Thelen is a one of the guitarists for Sonar, a remarkable Prog outfit from Switzerland. He is releasing this album fresh on the heels of triumphant Sonar albums Vortex and Live at Moods (both recorded with guitarist and loop specialist David Torn). Fans of Thelen’s mathematical (but groovy) tri-tone sound will find comfort in its familiarity on this album. They will also be shocked at what can be done with that sound in a slightly different context.
Fractal Guitar is named for a rhythmic delay Thelan uses to augment the tone of his instrument. It’s also a highly appropriate name for this project, which shows a musician stretching a few notes to their absolute limit — to the point where they seem to break apart –as opposed to playing dozens of notes as quickly as possible.
The core group of Thelan, touch guitarists Markus Reuter (who also produced the project) and Matt Tate (who serves as the bassist), and drummer Manuel Pasquinelli (a fellow Sonar member) lay the heavy foundation, while guest guitarists like Torn, Henry Kaiser, and Barry Cleveland (among others) add fascinating textural layers. This is the ultimate headphone record, given all the information being brought forth.
Not enough can be said about the depth of the album’s sound, which will resonate within the listener’s body. Thelen has created an album capable of reaching listeners on multiple levels. Epic length tunes have no chance of becoming boring, and songs like “Briefing for a Descent Into Hell” and “Urban Nightscape” are appropriately named.
Fractal Guitar represents the best progressive rock, ambient, and electronic music have to offer. Stephan Thelen has established himself as one of the music’s giants across the board.
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Since you brought this up again, I feel the need to let you know that because of your first post on Thelen’s Fractal Guitar, I sought out his oeuvre. Thanks for introducing me to his compositions!
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Most of this is excellent. For me, though, the last track didn’t live up to the expectations set by the first four. And that’s a shame because at 17:35 it’s one of the longest tracks on the album. Still, 4/5 ain’t bad and I still bought it!
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That’s a shame, because I LOVE the last track. I absolutely LOVE it. That bass line, the howling guitars, the soundscapes … I love how wide open it is. All I wanted to do was pick up my guitar and join in!