In Stories Ė Liner Notes

To step into the world of Kevin Kastning's ever growing catalogue of musicsmithing is to enter a realm of literacy surpassing the vast bulk of extent sonics, and the UKís Mark Wingfield, himself no stranger to highly intelligent unorthodoxy, has tread thencewards more than once, In Stories marking the fourth meeting. If, as has been modernly described, music is indeed painting and sculpting in the air, then Kastningís oeuvre is a dark but fascinatingly wrought museum of entire lands and detailed minutiae echoingly familiar but otherwise uncharted, milieux ancient with rime, fog, crags, grey plains, and Tanguy-esque oddities, seemingly imperishable, the products of the slow impress of unrufflable time. What a stage, then, for Wingfield to share, scripting, co-scripting, and re-scripting moment by moment, as the two ply their many-stringed paintbrushes and carving tools in cybernetic tandem.

Interestingly, neither of the musiciansí cartographies are threatening or arch. There is no hint of evil, no menace, but rather the perpetual enigma of Nature unknowable (Kastning) and omnipresent forces just beyond ken (Wingfield), the combination describing a transmorphic eco-entelechy almost quiescent yet simultaneously vibrant, oft abstract and abiding, brooding, immune to the concerns of whatever evanescent sentiences may dwell within it, inseparable and fundamentally generative, the lifeblood and spark of The All, whatever that may be. Interestingly, neither man nor the gods figure into the repertoire except perhaps peripherally, tangentially, their dramas set aside.

The interactions between Kevin and Mark are at once breathtakingly kindred and markedly unique, each personal to each, the duo a pair of aural sciento-druids drawing from arcane incunabula and perceptions, minds and spirit not just harmonic but telepathic. The songs, if thatís the right word for such improvisatory compositions, are sparks, chunks, and vistas struck from rare elements, shifting and evolving at a momentís notice yet thoroughly germane to the structures and atmospherics laid, as mercurial as thought itself yet immovably steadfast in vision, imbued with integrity and a terrenely cosmic authenticity.

As a writer, I know only too well there are times when vocabulary is severely tested, when nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs will not suffice, when language itself breaks down, fails, crumbles to the ground. This is increasingly the case with these guitar players. New linguistics must be brought into play, if thatís possible, and Iím not convinced it is. In Stories only increases that conviction. Language, like music, can be a tricky proposition.

In regarding the wonderland of Kastning and Wingfield, it no longer suffices to note the many similarities to the landmark ECM Ralph Towner / John Abercrombie duets (Sargasso Sea and Five Years Later) precisely because, though Kevin and Mark occupy the same stratospherically rarefied fields, theyíve set out for further horizons. Recently, with the invention of his two latest custom guitars, the 36-string double contraguitar and the 30-string contra-soprano guitar, which youíre likely already hearing as you read these words, Kastning has located himself much more in the curiously masterful position of soundfield muralist surrounding his partnerís and his own foreground voicings. To my ears, in fact, his entire palette is shifting again.

The spaces Wingfield occupies within In Stories not only flank and illuminate the panoply of Kevinís atmospherics and foregroundings - including, among many elements, those wondrous acoustic percussive effects heard in Halcyon Mist Unknown and elsewhere - but, over and above the three previous outings, secure new phrasings, vocabulary, and images hitherto hidden, oftentimes palimpsests and sketches, gestures, sometimes even the brushwork of sumi. Regardless, the level the two have achieved eludes firm rhetorical grasp, simply will not succumb to description, and often staggers the imagination. The work, then, must instead be heard to be understood, and thus I leave you to exactly that.

- Mark S. Tucker, freelance critic and writer; Manhattan Beach, California USA
September 2014





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