Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Stephan Thelen


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Stephan Thelen Fractal Guitar album cover
4.02 | 13 ratings | 4 reviews | 31% 5 stars

Write a review
from partners
Studio Album, released in 2019

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Briefing For A Descent Into Hell (18:35)
2. Road Movie (13:23)
3. Fractal Guitar (9:20)
4. Radiant Day (8:42)
5. Urban Nightscape (17:34)

Total time 67:34

Line-up / Musicians

- Stephan Thelen / guitars (fractal & tritone), granular loops (2,3), co-producer

- Markus Reuter / U8 touch guitar & soundscapes (1-5), co-producer
- Jon Durant / cloud guitar (1)
- David Torn / guitar & loops (1,5)
- Bill Walker / electric guitar & loops (2)
- Henry Kaiser / electric guitar (2)
- Barry Cleveland / guitar atmospheres (3,4)
- Matt Tate / U8 touch bass guitar (1-4)
- Manuel Pasquinelli / drums (1,4)
- Benno Kaiser / drums (3,5)
- Andi Pupato / percussion (3)

Releases information

CD Moonjune Records ‎- MJR096 (2018, US)

FLAC download -

Released January 18, 2019

Thanks to Nogbad_The_Bad for the addition
and to TCat for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy STEPHAN THELEN Fractal Guitar Music

Fractal GuitarFractal Guitar
Moonjune Records 2019
$10.06 (used)

More places to buy STEPHAN THELEN music online Buy STEPHAN THELEN & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

STEPHAN THELEN Fractal Guitar ratings distribution

(13 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(31%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(54%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

STEPHAN THELEN Fractal Guitar reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Rivertree
4 stars Since knowing such staff being present, is there anybody out there who will seriously argue that this won't be another sophisticated prog effort? A bunch of experimental musicians is aboard here, surely a who-is-who. True to the album title the guitars rule, of course, represented by Stephan Thelen, Markus Reuter, Matt Tate, David Torn, Henry Kaiser, Barry Cleveland, Jon Durant and Bill Walker. The five songs are dominated by a looping flow with jamming character. No, not really a neo kraut rock affair. Somewhat close to the polyrhythmic Sonar sound, as one might expect, though not a simple copy-cat at all, as well provided with proper King Crimson and Stick Men ambience, amongst other influences.

Which means you definitely will recognize that Markus Reuter is involved as the co-producer. Now coming to the protagonist, STEPHAN THELEN is known for playing in the aforementioned band hailing from Switzerland, which recorded a studio album in collaboration with David Torn in 2018. Furthermore the band managed to schedule one impressive live gig at least, which was recorded and self-released under the title 'Live At Moods' in the same year. And in all conscience, with 'Fractal Guitar' Moonjune Records now have added another top notch album to the fold. Not sure though how to sum this up with words. Stylistically seen probably best described as eclectic space rock, or what? On top though comes the exceptional atmosphere.

I guess with intent it all starts a bit Pink Floyd feel-good reminiscent. The compositions are definitely accessible, on the other hand it will be an unusual experience for one or two, as the guitars are serving delay patterns based on odd time signatures. I really love their approach to let it flow with special ease. Yeah, the shortest song is knocking at the nine minute border. While two drummers are alternating, speaking of Benno Kaiser and Manuel Pasquinelli of Sonar fame, the rhythm branch varies in a pleasant manner with rock and jazz tendencies. Radiant Day turns out to be my favourite, what a wonderful inspiration, vibe and crystal clear production! 4.5 stars.

Review by TCat
4 stars Stephen Thelen is a solo artist that has been releasing albums since 1990 under his own name. Considered to be a RIO/Avant Prog artist, he utilizes new technology and new ways of playing guitar in his music, yet composes similar to the classical artists. The album "Fractal Guitar" was released early in 2019, and continues with that style, experimental and innovative. In the 1990s, he was involved with the Guitar Craft Seminars along with Robert Fripp, so you can imagine that his playing and style is innovative. "Fractal Guitar" consists of 5 tracks and the total runtime of the album is 67 minutes, so the tracks are all quite long. There are several guest artists on this album, and between some of them and Stephen, there are several various types of guitars and styles used. Stephen also returns to a heavy use of effects on this album. Marcus Reuter guests on all of the tracks, mostly playing the U8 Touch Guitar and so does Matt Tate on the U8 Touch Bass.

Starting off with the longest track at over 18 minutes, "Briefing for a Descent into Hell", we get Stephen using Fractal and Tritone Guitars. The fractal guitar utilizes a rhythmic delay and a high feedback level that creates some awesome sounds. Also, on this track guests use U8 Touch Guitar and Bass, Cloud Guitar and Electric Guitar to generate some interesting layers and etc. The track has a steady bass and rhythm foundation and the different layers play out against this, creating melody, textures and atmospheric effects with the delay causing some interesting off-beat sounds. At the 8 minute mark, the constant rhythm stops for a short time allowing things to float for a minute before coming back again. A different sounding guitar takes over, I assume this is the tritone guitar because of the sudden smoothness of the transition from one note to another. Soon, the beat starts to break up a bit, and a new arpeggio type pattern is established before the rhythm starts up again, this time a bit more complex. Once the fractal guitar takes the spotlight again, this is where you can really hear the power of this guitar and its uniqueness in sound. Now the foundation isn't quite as steady as before, but more involved in what is going on around it. Around the 15 minute mark, things get quite a bit calmer until the guitar screeches and growls its way to the end.

"Road Movie" has Stephen using fractal guitar and a blue sky guitar as well as granular loops. Guests use other electric guitars, atmospherics, and both U8 touch guitar and bass. The rhythmic foundation has a boiling bass and drum pattern that is a bit reminiscent of Pink Floyd, but with guitar chords making for a more tense atmosphere. A beautiful and somewhat shimmering melody is played on top of this, and is later joined by a more intense melody on top of it. Power and intensity ebbs and flows throughout the track with a nice variation of sound coming from the different guitars and effects improvised over it all. The continuation of the rhythm throughout and the use of improvisation gives this track a space rock vibe, but with a huge amount of experimentation involved. Also, all of the guests get a chance to solo on this and their performances were added to the track.

"Fractal Guitar" utilizes echoing and repeating patterns of 5 notes against a 9 / 8 meter established by the rhythm section to create a nice lush sound as patterns echo and fade as other patterns are established over them. As things continue, the rhythm builds in intensity, sounding more complex as it goes. Marcus later comes in with a rousing solo giving everything that Fripp-ian feel. Things calm down again just before the 6 minute mark as new echoing patterns and effects return.

In the track "Radiant Day", the bass pattern and the main guitar pattern are the same, except that the bass is twice as slow as the guitar and also played an octave lower and this creates an interesting and complex foundation. Shimmering guitars and effects play over the top of this, much of it played by Marcus with inspiration coming from Mike Oldfield's music.

"Urban Nightscape" is a new version of an older piece that Stephen has recorded before. It has a tricky part played by the bass that serves as the foundation and features a very odd meter, a fractal guitar part played in another meter, and has that automated and metallic feel of Discipline-era King Crimson. This is my favorite track on the album and has the perfect placement as the last track. Not only that, it is 17+ minutes of genius, powerful, rapid-fire delivery, screeching chords and feedback, heaviness, coldness, just perfection. The guitar solo is amazing! After 10 minutes, things start to break down slowly and after 12 minutes, the entire track turns into a beautiful soundscape.

No doubt that this is the work of a genius, but at times it can develop quite slowly. Things get a bit less interesting in the middle, but still showcase the talent and ingenuity, but I tend to lose my interest a little, but that last track is just plain awesomeness and makes the entire journey worthwhile. With repeated listenings, you start to catch things that you missed before and different moods can make certain sections more appealing that were not so noticeable before. This is a recommended album, and I definitely want to explore some of his other albums.

Review by kev rowland
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.

Review by admireArt
4 stars Another great 2019 album which actually explores new possibilities for the progressiveness of Prog Music.

If taken literally this is actually an electric guitar based album, but as far as its music writing goes it does not overwork its performances for the sake of doing so. Opposite to that its compositions are well balanced, creative, detailed and, better yet, the variety of guitar players, guitar effects and guitar & bass ideas actually add up for an uncommon freshness and heavy/lightness which makes the whole trip enticing and eventually recurrently inviting.

Fractal Guitar (2019) is a 5 track release, which could well be set close to King Crimson kingdom's outskirts or Sonar's neighborhood yet its personal musical language establishes its own game and rules and although it witholds some kind of Rock in Opposition obscurity its Avant Prog approach is far from the macabre and its sound closer to the Eclectic Prog mutability where Jazz is not actually Jazz, nor the Blues the Blues and Rock, well, not exactly Rock.

Nevertheless everything falls into place naturally and its electric guitat electronic efx also open the door for, yes, electronic music atmospheres (not exactly Progressive Electronic of course).

If forced to come up with a single adjective I will choose seductive.


Latest members reviews

No review or rating for the moment | Submit a review

Post a review of STEPHAN THELEN "Fractal Guitar"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives