Becoming, the new album by Kevin Kastning, Sándor Szabó, and Balázs Major is released worldwide by Greydisc Records on March 26, 2013. Available on CD or mp3 atand here.
Reviews and Quotes for Becoming
Becoming is named as one of the Best Albums of 2013 by Acoustic Music.
Kevin Kastning, Sándor Szabó, Bálazs Major
The preternaturally prolific Kastning (12-string bass-baritone and baritone classical guitars, piano) and his longtime collaborator Szabó (classical, 16-string, and 10-string viola caipira guitars, guzheng), return with another collection of entirely improvised pieces, this time with percussionist Major, who also joined them on 2011’s equally intriguing Triptych. This is intricate and sometimes enigmatic music that rewards engaged and repeated listening, due both to the extraordinary range of timbres the guitarists elicit from their unique instruments, and the uncommonly nuanced interactions of the musicians, which also serves as a de facto master class on listening. Greydisc.
Guitar Player Magazine (USA) June 2013
Kevin Kastning-Szabó Sándor-Major Balázs: Becoming (CD)
"Last year I wrote a review of a very interesting concert of Kevin Kastning-Szabó Sándor-Major Balázs trio held in Budapest. That production focused on the record called Triptych which was released one year earlier. The new album called Becoming has been released recently and it is a continuation of their trio project. In spite of that the Triptych and the Becoming are separate productions – like in the oriental symbolism they belong together like jin and yang. Tasting the new release it turned out soon why we had to wait two years for the Becoming. The trio stepped to a new level in all aspects. The Becoming concerning its musical content, the playing and the sound quality is a very high level professional work. The album is near 70 (!) minutes long and contains 14 pieces, which makes this album so „huge”. All the pieces are composed by the members of the trio.
The Becoming is at least as interesting than the Triptych. From the „Time
Sentence Rising” to the „Of Broken Images Clinging”, from the „An Arboreal
Beyond” to the „A Doubled Reflecting” all feed from deep spiritual roots. While
listening I had the feeling as if my consciousness expanded from a limited state
and got to a space with no borders. This process can be defined as kind of
entering a higher consciousness, from the material to the spiritual dimension.
While I am writing these lines my inner hearing recalls the exotic melodies of the album…
I noticed that this 70 minute long music ocean is able to reset the perception of time. Sometimes the time seems to elapse slower then faster. The overall effect is like loosing the time sense.
Since I am in the fortunate situation that I met all the members of the trio in
Budapest (Kevin, Sándor and Balázs), I can boldly state that the music on this
album is much more than only audible music – it is their philosophy of life and
existence encoded in music. Knowing them I can say that they are very credible
artists because they are exactly the same like their music."
Kevin Kastning – 12-string baritone guitars, classical baritone guitar, piano
Szabó Sándor – classical guitar, 16-string guitar, 10-string viola caipira guitar, guzheng
Major Balázs – percussion
Ekultura Magazine May 2013 (HUNGARY)
"The new CD Becoming is a masterpiece. It's kind of addictive in a way, you can't just play it once... It definitely has that magical sound you're renowned for.
GREYDISC - A sonic orgy of various stringed fretboard instruments and percussion, Becoming is the latest recorded chapter from the international guitar duo of Kevin Kastning and Sándor Szabó. On the 69 minute, 14 track Becoming both guitarists are joined by percussionist Balázs Major. Kastning is one of the most prolific of all the experimental American guitarists recording in 2013 and both Sándor and Balázs are from Hungary so this is quite an international musical collaboration. Even so, the all instrumental fare extends way beyond border crossings. Recorded on location in March 2012 at the concert hall in Hungary where the trio were set to perform that night, Becoming is filled with all the dynamics and musical tension guitar fans have come to expect from the versatile and always challenging guitar sound Kastning has brought to the music world with the myriad of sonic complexities he has recorded over the past decade on the Greydisc label. Perhaps the most interesting part here—in addition to the wild guitars and sounds brought to life here—is the sound that Balázs adds on his percussion instruments which include unusual instruments such as gongs, udus, and African clay drums. Either way Balázs never dominates the spotlight, preferring instead to accentuate the delicate array of unusual acoustic guitars both Kastning and Sándor so skillfully perform on here—including 12 string bass-baritone guitar, baritone classical guitar (Kastning) and classical guitar, 16 string guitar, 10 string viola caipira guitar (Szabó). Kastning also adds some piano and Szabó a Chinese instrument called Guzheng. With their near telepathic guitar chemistry, Kastning and Szabó, together with percussion master Balázs Major, arrive with their greatest sonic achievement yet with the impeccably written, recorded and performed sounds on Becoming."
- MWE3 Magazine; May 2013 (USA)
KASTNING SZABO MAJOR/Becoming: "Everything about this set screams ECM at you. If the Windham Hill overtone is in the grooves, Kastning has put in his time with Alex deGrassi and Mike Manring. If you're too young to have experienced the legend making era of ECM, you can start your own legend years with Greydisc with this set. Kevin Kastning earns his spurs once again as the reigning modern guitarist in the country. A low key, left leaning progressive jazz date by a trio that is very much on the same page, this is the killer example of art music that doesn't carry the baggage and the stigma. Killer stuff that delivers much more along these lines than you could imagine without sitting down and giving this your full attention."
- Midwest Record; March 2013 (USA)
Kastning / Szabó / Major
Greydisc Records - GDR3514
Available from CD Baby.
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
As much as I have to say I'm ceaselessly intrigued by Kevin Kastning's music regardless of how he chooses to manifest it or with whom, I find the addition of percussion does much to delineate another geography in the terrain of his austerely hypnotic pieces (well, actually, they're not quite his, being spontaneous improvisations attributable to all three musicians) from a dimension companioning the one usually inhabited. That is, the work is equally valid with or without percussives, but yanking that element into the mix is distinctive. More, with the addition of guzheng, Kastning's most constant foil-complement Sándor Szabó locates the exact middle of everything in Becoming.
The guzheng is of the koto / zither / autoharp family and, once you pay attention to the stiffer sonics for what they are, it dawns on you that the guitar is actually a percussive instrument too…or is it? The physical, though perhaps not the historical (in which one must consider the lyre, cithara, etc.), lineage goes like this: piano → dulcimer → guitar, the point being that the strings are struck in some fashion, especially in plectrum play in the latter two. More, when you think upon it, fingers, when used, are merely soft plectra. Let's look at this for a moment.
We're informed that the guitar is of the chordophone family, and it certainly is, as a chordophone is any instrument that obtains its sound from vibrating strings. We're told this through the esteemed Hornbostel-Sachs method of classification, which also tells us that the piano is likewise a chordophone. "What???", you may ask, shocked and indignant, "but I've always been told it's a percussive instrument!" Well, yes, exactly, and that's why I'm harking back to the brainchild of Erich (Moritz von Hornbostel) and Curt (Sachs): those early 20th century bad boys displayed unusual categorical wisdom…which, heh!, I have to tell you actually rooted not just in Victor-Charles Mahillon's work before them but, at its core, the Natya Sastra, which comes to us from the land which birthed the most complex and virtuosic music style on planet Earth: India, with its extraordinary Carnatic mode.
I say all this for a reason, as Kastning's work has always been dominantly, almost obsessively, chordophonic and thus at least somewhat increasingly percussive in the attributed 20th/21st century sense as well, bridging between the two sets of perceptions, both of which are correct when all's said and done because—and please listen closely Erich, Curt, Vic-Chaz, Ravi et al—all stringed instruments are actually simultaneously percussive and chordophonic…except when they're bowed mayhap? Maybe not, as one could erect an imposing argument that even violins are half percussive, their pitch characteristics arising from rasping, which is a matter of a constant flow abrasion; that is: of being struck by the irregular surface of the bow hairs, physically an act of constant percussive response (and we'll bypass arguments re: sonic characteristics in idiophones, etc., as it's getting close to dinner time and I don't want to miss tonight's souffle d'seraphime).
I also note all this because Kevin's was one of the most interesting interviews I've ever conducted (along with Michael Mantler, Tomasz Stanko, Morton Subtonick, etc.), and I rapidly discovered that all his mentations, in discussions and in music, even in the improvisatory mode that is his wont, are extremely well informed if sometimes a bit obtuse even to the well-informed listener. Dig deeply enough, though, and you'll find a synthesis that spans the entirety of the musical spectrum. Thus, when you hear a wrinkle developing, it's never coincidental and knowing its wellsprings increases appreciation for what's occurring in all the CDs, opens up a whole new dimension. When I tutor college level students in critical analysis, I peel the layers away in literature and reveal the many levels a great work of art can occupy. Music acts the same way in the right hands.
In later CDs, Kevin and compeers have slowly been ratcheting up the use of chord strikes and such to imitate pianistics. Then of course, there's the rare presence in this outing of Kastning actually playing piano as well as his favored custom baritone guitars, so all and sundry are engaged in processes pushing the envelope even beyond what's manifested previously, coming, as Kevin notes "ever closer to [their] own artistic ideals". Balász Major, for instance, is very much in the Colin Walcott / Marc Anderson / Trilok Gurtu vein and so the sounds he makes are as important as the rhythms manifested, more so actually, gongs walking in when Szabó orientalizes things. The music and what it fleshes are what matter, not just the dexterities. Those are the means to the end.
Kevin Kastning is one of the few musicians for whom it's almost pointless to review new works because his entire catalogue is of a piece; no matter where you choose to start, here or elsewhere, you'll come away immensely gratified and thirsting for more. In fact, if you…but, oh hell, this turned into another aesthetics seminar, didn't it? Man, I really gotta start cutting back on the Dr. Pepper's, but this is what happens when you commence looking into uncommon musics, and that's why increasing numbers of very serious musicians are attracted to Kastning's oeuvre and to sitting in with him. Great music is not always easy to acclimate to, you have to work at it a bit, which is why I ruminated on the matters above, but when it's finally understood, the effect is subtly oceanic, all-encompassing. When you no longer desire to fight the undertow is when you know you've become a part of it.
- FAME Magazine (USA) April 2013
KEVIN KASTNING / SÁNDOR SZABÓ / BALÁZS MAJOR BECOMING
New album from the prolific musician and composer Kevin Kastning, this time accompanied by two other artists as Sándor Szabó and Balázs Major to give life to this radiant musical work entitled "Becoming." Released in March 2013 through the prestigious Greydisc Records label, this album is another melodic work of authentic spiritual guitar as critical to creating sublime contemporary instrumental music played through various avant-garde experimentation and critical sounds. Despite the great strides made in music over the past three decades, the fascinating sound of the guitar continues to fascinate music lovers. Take note, Lux Atenea Webzine readers seeking the finest in exquisite and melodic music. The percussion instruments join in to give an almost transcendent musical touch, the Guzheng to incorporate the ethereal melodic element, and piano to give sophistication to the composition, the final outcome of this show of talent and ingenuity applied to artistic avant-garde musical called "Becoming." Unique musical personality in every subject we could define perfectly as Apollonian in "Time Sentence Rising, " night in "The Wind Unheard," a vibrant sound tour of "Morning Behind You," reflective "Memory and Stirring," Baroque rhythms in "Clinging of Broken Images," innovatively intense in "Ancient Infinite Resolve," relaxed and vital in "Ninety Degrees in View," played with emotional sensitivity in "For You Only Know," fascinatingly radiant in "The Singing Grass Faintly," transgressive in "An Arboreal Beyond," with Mediterranean essence in "At Evening Rising," silence and stimulant in "A Doubled Reflecting," the evanescent and delicate "No Sound of Water," and dynamically glorious in "Ritus III," as the melodic theme ends in real luxury. "Becoming," a sophisticated and elegant album in the current world of contemporary music. Enjoy it !
- Lux Atenea Webzine (SPAIN)
"I just listened to Becoming again. Great, great recording, your best with Sandor IMHO. Wider colour palette and a lot of space, there is synchronicity between you two. I love the percussion player's style, very musical and a perfect fit for the music."