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Stephan Thelen - Fractal Guitar CD (album) cover


Stephan Thelen



3.99 | 47 ratings

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kev rowland
Special Collaborator
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars To be able to fully comprehend this album, in some ways it is best to understand the concept behind it. Stephan Thelen says, "After a few years of playing without effects apart from reverb in Sonar, I felt the urge to compose and record some pieces in which effects were an integral part of the music. I especially wanted to use an effect I worked with before Sonar, which I call "Fractal Guitar" ? a rhythmic delay with a very high feedback level that creates cascading delay patterns in odd time signatures such as 3/8, 5/8 or 7/8. The other desire I had was to work with and to have some serious fun with a few of the many great guitarists I've met over the years to create an album that features some of the more forward-looking possibilities of the most mysterious, compelling and eclectic of all instruments, the electric guitar."

All the melodic sounds on the album are created by one of the guitarists, and Thelen has been joined by touch expert Markus Reuter along with David Torn, Jon Durant, Matt Tate, Bill Walker, Henry Kaiser and Barry Cleveland. They may not all play on the same track, but there are often four guitarists all using different loops and effects, alongside touch bass, and a drummer at the back attempting to keep it all in order. The result is a layered soundscape, and sonically the ears are pleased that the bass is often fairly grounded in its approach as there is just so much going on in the higher registers. To say this is a complex and complicated album is somewhat of an understatement, and while the album as a whole (and "Urban Nightscape" in particular) owes a great deal to King Crimson, there are also elements of Steve Hillage in particular, plus the overarching feeling of musicians more embedded in RIO and jazz than they are in what many would consider to be progressive rock.

That this is indeed a progressive album is a moot point as every musician is pushing the boundaries on what can be achieved with an electric guitar, bouncing ideas, throwing in feedback when the time is right or being clean at others. The repeating loops become almost hypnotic, taking the listener to a different level of consciousness, a different reality. The only way to fully experience this album is in a darkened room late at night being played through high quality headphones. The mind mustn't have any other stimuli, the world is the album, and the album is the world. This is music which needs to be listened to, really listened to, as opposed to being played while something else is taking place. If this were a concert hall, there would be no sound to be heard apart from the musicians themselves as the audience would be frightened to even breathe less the spell be broken. If you have the time to give to it, this is a superb album, but if you can only spare a passing listen then move rapidly on.

kev rowland | 4/5 |


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