Rubicon I: Reviews and Quotes
Kevin Kastning / Mark Wingfield - 2021 - Rubicon I
by Kev Rowland
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to hear quite a few albums by Kevin Kastning, but they are always either solo or working with musicians I have not otherwise come across. However, here we find him collaborating with Mark Wingfield, another musician whose work I have been enjoying, so this is a first for me. Recorded at Studio Tramwauld in Massachusetts 16-17 August 2018, the day after Kevin and Mark performed live in New York City for WNYC radio, here we find two extraordinarily talented guys pushing music to new limits. Both Kevin (36-string double contraguitar, 17-string hybrid extended classical guitar, piano) and Mark (electric guitar, live electronics (software processing)) have reputations for working in improvisational and “free” music, and one would certainly not expect anything different when they combine their resources. The largest difference for me in this instance is the importance of delicate piano throughout, which often acts as a cornerstone for Mark to take the music in quite different directions. There is a certain amount of discord and disharmony within, yet there is also a fragile beauty with delicate notes being played with some force and power. There is a passion and emotion within this, very different to music which is carefully constructed and only in play when musicians have trust in their own ability and that of their partner to create something that is both ethereal and robust. Kevin always records his albums very quickly, capturing the time and essence before moving on, and that is the same here with it being fully recorded in just a few days. This is music designed to take the listener to another time and place, to join the musicians on a journey where even they have no idea of the final destination or the route they are going to follow on their travels.
- Progressor Magazine (UZBEKISTAN)
Kevin Kastning / Mark Wingfield: Rubicon I
"Silence is a very underrated and powerful
musical instrument. It takes a lot of effort, artistic taste and experience
to interweave musical sounds, with silence in a captivating way. This is
what the duet of two guitarists (Mark Wingfield and Kevin Kastning) aims to
achieve. I am not familiar with the larger part of Wingfield's back
catalogue, but I must say that I liked his fusion release Tales From The
Dreaming City, where Mark shows his less-boundary-challenging side.
Minimalist music kind of implies minimalistic reviews, hence I will give no florid descriptions and verbose impressions this time, if you permit. The duet's music reminded me of the more experimental releases by Discipline Global Music and Terje Rypdal's solo career. The same sharp, chilly sound, that places itself outside the comfort zone for most of the sympho and metal prog lovers. The trick here is that Kevin Kastning plays instruments that you have probably never heard of before, including a 36-string double contra-guitar, 17-string Hybrid classical guitar and 15-string Extended classical guitar. Try to google the pictures of these juggernauts, and be awed. Anyway, here's what a daring listener should expect after pressing the play button.
First: an absence of atmosphere (which is also a special sort of atmosphere, if you agree).
Second: abstract harmonies, taken from the Scandinavian jazz tradition and put into freezer for a couple of weeks for extra effect.
Third: no rhythm section to provide the pulse. The music flows like space debris on outer orbits, eternally surrounded by vacuum.
It's safe to say that the result is not for everyone's ears. On the other hand, it is clear that the musicians were not driven by an idea to make something accepted by wide audiences. While I admire the experimental nature and the musicians' urge to find new means of expression, it is hard for me to rate the work. Hence I leave it unrated and recommend it to those fascinated by ambient, free jazz and sound design. If ambient is elevator music, this is the album to be played in the elevator from Pluto's landing pad, to an alien mothership."
The Dutch Progressive Rock Pages (HOLLAND)
Kevin Kastning / Mark Wingfield – Rubicon I
Article by: Graham Thomas
"The prolific Kevin Kastning comes up with another new album, this time collaborating with Mark Wingfield, an equally talented and inventive UK based guitarist. Rubicon I has just been released, although it was recorded at Kevin’s Massachusetts studio in 2018, live in the studio and face to face, something that’s not been possible for the past year obviously. It is another absorbing and fascinating recording by two guitarists with quite different approaches who seem to complement each other’s playing almost telepathically. The compositions have been worked up live and are almost entirely improvised ‘in the moment’, each musician reacting to the other, the music evolving quite magically.
For much of the album, Mark Wingfield plays guitar which sounds anything but a guitar. He uses live software processing to create sounds which are often more orchestral in nature, or else sounding like synthesisers, but all the time the source of these strange sounds are his guitar. Kevin Kastning’s guitar playing against these soundscapes is quite different, recognisable as guitar, but no normal guitar of course. His self-designed multi-string guitars have such a range of sounds it’s hard to accept that they are being played on one instrument for each composition. For variation in sound and texture, Kastning also plays piano on two tracks, so the result is six pieces which all sound quite different, each having their own personality and structure whilst retaining a sense of belonging together.
Event Horizon eases us into this strange and beguiling sound world with a wash of spacey sounds from Wingfield against which Kastning’s 36-string contraguitar overlays some deep bass sounds, a wonderful organic and rich irregular pattern, ever changing and shifting as the soundscape evolves in tone and mood.
Comoving Distance features guitar squeaks and squeals from Wingfield that sound as though they have come from another world, possibly the world of the Clangers, with rushes of dancing and chattering electric notes reaching skywards, whilst Kastning produces bass rumblings and reverberating contraguitar seemingly plucked from the bowels of the universe. It is a conversation between contrasting elemental forces, and totally absorbing.
The following two pieces both feature Kastning on piano, which in many ways seems to lead the compositions forward initially. Having not heard Kevin’s piano pieces before, these are a revelation to me. His abstract sense of momentum and colour create vivid pictures which Wingfield complements with his processed guitarscapes and flurries of notes vying for the listener’s attention. The Lensing is particularly effective, with Kastning’s piano underpinning the exploratory guitar from Wingfield, the interweaving piano and guitar building and subsiding in waves.
On Loop Quantum, Kastning returns to his beloved 36-string contraguitar for a piece recorded at the end of the session. The ambient sound of heavy rain on the studio roof can be heard at the start, which almost scuppered the recording, but they decided to press on regardless. It was a good decision because the atmosphere of the piece is unique, with a vibrant energy present as both players feed off each other in turn. Long sustained notes play well against the ultra-low contraguitar notes, then energy builds, increasing in urgency, with Mark producing laughing guitar runs as they race towards a conclusion.
The final track is the magnum opus of this collection, a symphonic concerto almost, for processed electric guitar and 17-string classical guitar. At over 19-minutes, it is by far the longest piece, but conversely seems to slip by in half that time. Wingfield’s treated guitar hardly sounds like a guitar at all throughout this work, instead making sounds more akin to keys, synths and strings. This gives the track a very orchestral flavour, with echoing tones arcing through the air, whilst Kastning reacts to each changing tone on the 17-string guitar, adding harmonic textures to each evolving section of the piece. It mutates slowly and naturally leading to its satisfying conclusion.
So whilst this sort of abstract compositional style might not appeal to everyone, it cannot be denied that these two musicians are truly progressive in their pioneering quest to find new sound worlds, and this album proves to those willing to listen how accessible and rewarding their explorations can be. As usual, the sessions proved fruitful, and as the title suggests, there is another album in the can from these recordings, so that’s something to look forward to. In the meantime, I thoroughly recommend giving this wonderful collaboration a listen."
The Progressive Aspect (UK)
Kevin Kastning & Mark Wingfield - Rubicon I (Greydisc 2021)
Kevin Kastning is a very prolific artist, only in the first months of this year three albums have already been released under his name, with different collaborators and, consequently, different connotations.
The union between Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield is now consolidated by several years of collaboration and musical experimentation in pairs that have given rise to a dozen records and this Rubicon I is a prelude to the short release of a second part of the project.
A project recorded even in 2018 and probably kept for a long time in order not to inflate the market, on which the two musicians are widely present even with different projects.
The disc in question, recorded at the Traumwald studio in Massachusetts, is the result of an introspective and very experimental work, with medium-length compositions, except for the mileage and conclusive Particle Horizon.
Kastning takes care of the piano here, but obviously does not renounce to embrace his guitars with their peculiar and very elaborate sounds, in particular in the opening track Event Horizon or in Loop Quantum where the partner's electric dialogues with the particular sounds of his seventeen strings. (!).
Obviously this is not a particularly digestible music given the attitude of both to experimentation and dissonance.
The American Kastning is also a sort of instrument inventor who develops the models he plays in his records and concerts, double-necked guitars, with resonant strings that allow to obtain timbres and sounds that vary from time to time to depending on the effects used and the desired performance.
The English Wingfield, on the other hand, despite having made his bones in the jazz-rock field, shares with Kastning the passion for a sort of contemporary classical music that is the basis of the compositions.
In this case, as we said, even though he is also present with his guitars, Kastning is particularly busy playing the piano here, leaving ample space for Wingfield's electric guitar. Each composition is a sort of soundscape in its own right, a bit in the wake of certain ECM publications, and it is therefore no coincidence that even the graphic concept of Rubicon I harks back rather blatantly to that of the Bavarian label publications.
Late for the Sky Magazine (ITALY)
Kevin Kastning & Mark Wingfield – Rubicon I (Greydisc,
Guitar and Guitar (and a little Piano). The album came with the following genre labels: Jazz, New Age, Ambient, Avant-garde, Progressive rock. Rubicon I, the 9th album of the duo of guitarists Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield fits – but never entirely – under all of these labels. Throughout the tracks, there is a gradual accumulation of intent and tension as layers of foundational ambiance build, while injections of clean, incisive lines of electric guitar cut and the buzz of acoustic guitar strings add texture. There are also the unusual timbres and tones to consider, as Kastning uses his self-invented 36-string Double Contraguitar and a 17-string Hybrid Extended classical guitar to contrast against Wingfield’s electric guitar and live-electronics. Together the two cover a wide swath of sonic territory that is sometimes familiar, sometimes treacherous (listen to the intro of ‘Comoving Distance,’ imagine yourself lost and floating between perceptual dimensions, it could get potentially pretty bewildering, no?) and generally fascinating. The tracks are very textural and fraught with possibilities – it seems at any moment something may develop. On ‘Dynamic Horizon’ an electronic ring can be heard throughout the track, while Kastning switches to the piano and provides a sparse melodic framework that Wingfield soars around with a frazzled guitar tone. ‘The Lensing’ continues with Kastning’s piano and works off a somewhat more traditional musical interaction – Kastning provides deliberative melodic statements and punctuating chords to Wingfield’s swooshing lines. The album ends with the 20 minute ‘Particle Horizon’, which finds Kastning back on guitar, likely the 36 string one. The track begins with atmospheric fill and a clean toned, staggered melody and expands patiently, layering in new sounds, but still keeping a threads of ideas stretching to a climatic moment three-quarters of the way through.
- Sound in Depth Magazine (US)
"I've just listened to Rubicon I. Very different from your previous albums with Mark. I hear Mark is heading to a more ambient sound which is exciting together with your sound and music. You have a new sound, darker, mellower, and heavily compressed voice than I got used to, especially in the last piece. I love this fat bass sound.
- Sándor Szabó (HUNGARY)
"Rubicon 1 is a fantastic piece of art, really nicely done! I dig the electronic sound carpet, and everything else too, wow!"
- Dieter Kaudel (GERMANY/US)
© 2021 Greydisc Records / Suigeneria Music [BMI]