A Connection of Secrets :: Reviews, Press, + Quotes
Kastning — A Connection of Secrets
(Greydisc GDR3532, 2017, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2017-06-14
Like a portal into a catalog of dreams, any recording featuring Kevin Kastning evokes a singular feeling, a feeling not easily described in words but one that knows no other, whether it be one of his collaborations with numerous other musicians (there must be a couple dozen recordings by now), but especially on his solo albums, of which A Connection of Secrets is only the third. A feeling of stillness pervades the album’s ten tracks, not a blur of sounds, but one of sharp focus and heightened senses, where the entire direction and feeling of the music can transmogrify every few seconds, where there is no set rhythm to anchor these nomadic flights of fantastic escapism, performed solo on his 36-string double-neck Contraguitar, a 30-string contra-alto guitar, 15-string classical guitar, all three being custom-designed creations, and occasionally piano. These multi-stringed adventurous epics ebb and soar as the trajectories of whimsy develop and proceed, producing flashes of elemental tone and coloration, and impossibly complex chords and textures; sometimes it almost seems like he’s just creating these pieces improvisationaly as he goes along, but his sure-footed masterful technique and approach tells the listener otherwise, that this is somewhere he’s been many times before. While one may find some oblique similarities with Steve Tibbetts’ third album Northern Song, the backgrounds of the two musicians couldn’t be more different, but the end results produces a very similar feeling. This is the soundtrack of germinal contemplation that develops instant by instant, and can lead the listener out in many directions.
Exposé Magazine (US)
KEVIN KASTNING – A Connection of Secrets
(2017 / Greydisc)
"For many, art isn’t just a profession but a way of life. Creatives oft have a tough time in the real world, do not do well as managers in corporations, or as lawyers, politicians, and so on. Most likely, if they’re not paying the bills with their output, they’re janitors, fast food handlers, car repairmen, clerks in book and record shops, metal shop monkeys, etc. When I was tutoring in one of the richest areas in America (Palos Verdes / Rolling Hills), parents were terrified when their children expressed interest in the sonic, graphic, and written arts, seeing a bleak future for their seed.
Better, they averred, to be a hedge fund manager, a CEO, take over the family business, etc. I of course pointed to Steven King, Led Zeppelin, Salvador Dali, and many others to calm their shredding nerves. Ah, but then there are the artists who live for PURE art, those who could give a damn about any other consideration, and are forever hellbound to create it. These individuals, of course, spark much more in the environment than they’re ever credited for…until safely dead and no longer a threat to status quo.
Well, platinum-haired guitarist Kevin Kastning is far from dead, he’s one of the best guitar players on Earth, and his prolific output does nothing but expand and has, over years, captured and spellbound various estimables not only in his early baseline partners – Sandor Szabo, Siegfried, and others – but also in recent acquisitions of top-flight innovators: Mark Wingfield, Carl Clements, Michael Manring, Balasz Major, etc. I of course never mentioned Kevin’s name to the P.V. bourgeousie, but, since I was well known by my students - many of whom were in the first stages of becoming musicians - for my copious and wide-ranging musical knowledge, I often advised checking Kastning out along with all the usual: Gibbons, Clapton, Hendrix, Fripp, Satriani, etc. The newer generations, you see, have, bless ‘em, voracious appetites for as wide a panoply of sounds as they can discover.
A Connection of Secrets, 71+ minutes of mysteries and wonderment, essentially a two-fer, is only Kastning’s third solo gig amid a forest of, if my count is correct, 29 releases (incl. two gatherums). There so far is no such thing as a Best Of because everything he issues is sorcerously spellbinding, it’d be impossible to separate out songs. For this occasion, though, Kastning’s employing a triplex of guitars he’s invented – 36-string Double Contra-Guitar, 30-string Double Contra-Alto guitar, 15-string Extended Classical guitar – and also a Kawaii grand piano on “Of Grasp and Knowing”, which instantly became my favorite cut. In Kevin’s use of that instrument, I hear quite a bit: some Cage, some Schoenberg, a bit of Takemitsu, shards of Rachmaninoff, etc. He is, after, exceedingly well schooled and trained, as my Perfect Sound Forever interview with him more than demonstrates:
His guitar work is as it ever is: at first seemingly ‘free’ but actually
possessed of a lot more than any rudimentary or casual listen could possibly
reveal, formalism decked out in outré garb. Tie that up with what would most
aptly be cited as ‘environment music’ – having far more in the way of
kindredness with Stockhausen, Subotnick, Oregon, Eno’s ambient fare, Cage, a
good deal of the whole ambientalist movement, and even Iannis Xenakis – and
you’re sorrrrrrrrta approaching the ballpark. But then, have ya ever tried
explaining any of those even more famous cats’ most “difficult” pieces to
friends who hang on Billboard’s every bombastic blurt?
Perfect Sound Forever: Kevin Kastning - furious.com
Between Two Worlds, Creating a Third Interview, Part 1 by Mark S. Tucker (December 2010) Kevin Kastning is a somber, introspective, serious musician who has produced ...
Yeah, I wouldn’t wish it my worst enemy. What I do wish, however, is that Kastning will trot out a future solo CD exclusively of his piano work. I’m working on restoring my way-long lost virginity so I can offer it in sacrifice to Wotan, Loge, Freja, and the ancient gods in exchange for them putting a hoodoo on Kevin, an inexorable compulsion, to tread in exactly that direction. If anyone knows how one might re-incarnate their busted withered cherry, please write and let me know; the fate of the piano may well rest upon it."
-- Mark S. Tucker / Veritas Vampirus blog/newsletter
Kevin Kastning: A Connection of Secrets
This third solo album from Kevin Kastning, he of the incredible-looking thirty-six-string Double Contraguitar and thirty-string Contra-Alto guitar, doesn't depart radically from those that have come before, but that it doesn't is in no way objectionable. That's especially so when no other guitarist sounds quite like Kastning and each release feels like the next chapter in an ongoing conversation. Or perhaps it would be more accurate—especially when A Connection of Secrets presents the guitarist alone—to think of the album less as a conversation and more a seventy-five-minute transcription of his inner musings.
Certainly the way a typical setting unfolds is much like the way consciousness does: patterns develop, some thoughts advancing logically and others less so, while at the same time pauses occur, their emergence suggesting deliberation as various ways forward are considered; sudden insights appear as interjections, non sequiturs that nudge the inner dialogue in fresh yet still related directions. Presented with Kastning's improvisatory approach, the listener monitors the artists' ruminative thought patterns as they unfold in real time.
Recorded earlier this year during three days in January, A Connection of Secrets was, in fact, recorded live in the studio (sans overdubs) at Studio Traumwald in Massachusetts; produced by Kastning compadre Sándor Szabó, the album is actually the guitarist's twenty-fourth overall and as such finds him completely comfortable with the recording process. With no other instrument sounds competing for one's attention, the listener is able to savour with the utmost clarity the distinctive tone colours of the self-invented guitars Kastning plays on the ten-track collection, two of them featuring the thirty-string, four the thirty-six, and three his fifteen-string Extended Classical. The latter is heard to especially captivating effect on “Silent Mirrors and Remembering,” though each of the nine guitar-based pieces is compelling in its own way.
Throughout the album, rapid runs and clusters alternate with plucked chords, Kastning exploiting to maximum degree the range of dynamics and pitches each guitar type offers. In stark settings such as “What you thought were alders in the snow...” and “...were fragments of your darkest history,” he favours a ponderous approach that allows the material to develop slowly, so much so that one begins to feel privy to his thought processes as they're happening. One rather unexpected move does arise four tracks into the release when Kastning exchanges guitar for piano on “Of Grasp and Knowing,” though the move is less dramatic than it might appear on paper when his keyboard playing replicates the ruminative style applied elsewhere.
On the accompanying press sheet, genres relevant to the release are listed, among them classical, jazz, ambient, and New Age; however, A Connection of Secrets, like Kastning's releases in general, ends up largely transcending demarcated styles to become instead the most recent instantiation of the guitarist's own self-created genre.
-- Textura Magazine (CANADA)
Kevin Kastning - A Connection of Secrets
New England based Kevin Kastning is on a roll these past few years. Having released a number of collaboration albums with a range of musicians, Kevin is back with his third solo album in as many years with the 2017 CD release of A Connection Of Secrets. Like many of the classic ECM albums recorded in Europe, Kevin’s solo music is ripe with a unique sense of guitar exploration that he fulfills thanks to his recording with a range of peculiar looking instruments, including his 36 string Double Contraguitar. Much of the music he records is quite experimental and improvisational and on A Connection Of Secrets, Kevin’s use of pioneering instruments like the 36 string Double Contraguitar, the 30 string Contra Alto and the 15 string Extended Classical guitar fills in all the sonic spaces. Also of note is the inclusion on a track here of a nine foot Kawai grand piano, which shines a light on Kastning’s famous, though lesser heard keyboard skills.
Even though there’s a corresponding line of sonic reasoning running through much of Kastning’s work, on A Connection Of Secrets, his sound remains unique and inspired. When asked about the title of his new album, Kevin adds, “If I give that away, then it’s no longer a secret! I’ll say it had to do with how some of the pieces are connected.” Also speaking to mwe3.com about why he chose to also feature his piano work on A Connection Of Secrets, Kevin explains, “I played a little piano on a record with Sandor Szabo that was recorded during the 2012 European Tour, called The Book Of Crossings, but it was very little and mostly in the background." As is the case with the three Kevin Kastning solo albums and his various group-related projects on Greydisc, A Connection Of Secrets benefits from excellent album artwork and liner notes that indicates what guitars were played on what tracks. Also of note on his 2017 album is that the album also features mixing and mastering by Greydisc recording artist Sándor Szabó, done in his studio in Vác, Hungary. The latest album of groundbreaking, often startling fretboard magic by Kevin Kastning, A Connection Of Secrets is a sonic joyride from start to finish.
Web Express (US)
Kevin Kastning - A Connection of Secrets
"It’s been a good while since I’ve listened to Kevin Kastning’s music. I have been so busy listening to some amazing music both old and new. I’ve always wanted to delve into the pool with Kevin’s music, and now I have with the release of his 24th studio album released on the Greydisc label entitled, A Connection of Secrets. He has never disappointed me with his sound. And with a title like that, it fits well with its themes. Alongside of the collaborations between working with Mark Wingfield, Sandor Szabo and Carl Clements to name a few, he's never done me wrong.
The themes which have ten compositions he wrote, deal with finding the deep and darker side of someone’s personal life on what they are going through their dark and troubling times. What Kastning does, is going through an ominous journey that takes us towards to which is not a pleasant scenario, but knowing it is a connection of what the person has become. The tones is a combination of neo-classical, surrealism, and avant-garde classical music. Believe me, it is a heavier atmosphere.
And with the instruments by using the contra-guitar, contra-alto guitar, piano, and the 15-string extended classical guitar. He’s been a very, very busy man. The album was recorded in three days at Studio Traumwald in Northern Massachusetts. And you can feel the pin drops in the different moments as if something terrible has just happen with its harsh chords, bright sounds, and mysterious atmosphere.
You can imagine walking through the looking glass and imagine going into this parallel universe of what was, has now become an eerie twilight zone scenario. Understand, Kevin’s music is not easy to get into, but the way he uses these themes, you can imagine him doing a score for one of either Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick or Luis Bunuel’s films, it’s quite an astonishing and at times scary piece of music I’ve listened to.
A Connection of Secrets is another mind-boggling release that Kastning himself has unleashed this year and I hope he will continue to release more and more music to come in the years to come."
Music From The Other Side of the Room (US)
KEVIN KASTNING / A Connection of Secrets: "His 24th album finds the world's most adventurous and unclassifiable guitarist checking in with only his third solo album and he launches himself into his self devised, multi stringed world in a trip that reaches from the inner world to the cosmos in a mere pluck of the string. If this accomplished, left leaning date doesn't take you to all the places hippies inspired by Wes have taken guitar over the last 50 years and leave you on shores you can't imagine, you better go back to the gift shop. High octane killer stuff for anyone that every wanted to hear the possibilities guitar can offer and where the fearless can take it."
-- Midwest Record
Well, I have to say firstly, I adore your new album. When I first read the back of the CD, the track titles, immediately I read them all together as if it were poetry – and that was my first initial feeling before I heard any of the music. More than any of your other albums this one has (no pun intended) struck a chord with my nature. This is my absolute favorite album of yours. I must say, that your style of music, was a challenge to my ears at first, as it was not the kind of music I was used to hearing – over time, the more I have listened to your albums, I have become far more attuned to the feelings within the albums and really appreciate the incredible arrangements. A Connection of Secrets this one for me is an absolute treasure! It conjures all kinds of images in my mind, and feelings. I can’t choose a favorite track, because to me, it is like one flowing piece of musical poetry that fits with the poetry of your track titles. wow.. those track titles, for me, its poetry ..and the music brings the whole poem to life. A true masterpiece of work Kevin! I love it! It is by far my favorite album of yours!"
-- Zoë Ehinger
(UK radio host)
Illustration of A Connection of Secrets by Zoë (click to see a larger version)
"I've listened to A Connection of Secrets and it is, as usual, amazing.
Congratulations on another amazing solo album. There were numerous jaw dropping
moments where music of such beauty and originality appeared in my headphones
that I was completely stunned and elated at the same time. Such as I've come to
expect from your solo albums. Amazing.
All tracks are great, often spectacularly so. The last track in particular. For me it's the best track on the album, which is saying something because there are so many other great ones. It sounds like a piece of composed orchestral music to me. I can't imagine how you played this. Even more amazing is how you conceived of it. This piece is very deep and seems to spark meaning out of every note. And behind everything way you use the resonance of the instrument, is amazing. I'm floored."
-- Mark Wingfield
"Kevin, A Connection of Secrets is another sonic triumph. The recording, the mix and the mastering are each outstanding. And of course your performances, as always, are provocative, pristine, and delivered right from the soul. Great job, man. This is one more CD you have every reason to be very proud of."
-- Mike Metheny (US)
" This is a fine album Mr. Kastning! I hear your voice clearly and with confidence. A new classical voice!"
-- Billy Sheppard