Reviews and Quotes for Watercolor Sky
Watercolor Sky - Kevin Kastning & Carl
"For those whose aural "mood quests" demand an intellectual component, Kevin Kastning (guitars) and Carl Clements (woodwinds) present seven beautifully restrained musings of intuitive instrumental discourse that prove eminently ponder-worthy.
Oft-dissonant, only peripherally melodic and wholly impressionistic, Watercolor Sky approaches the spaces between sounds and varied timbres/pacing/instinctual interplay with equal emphasis. Speculating just where in the creative ethers these musicians' minds are at a given moment offers endless allure, especially considering their chosen tools of expression. Kastning is a musician-inventor-adventurer whose 36-string (!) Double Contraguitar and 30-string Contra-soprano guitar provide unlimited acoustic options. Clements brings exotic colors to this mysterious dance with bansuri flute, alto flute, plus tenor and soprano saxophones.
At first blush there appears no difference in sound or approach between tracks, little reason they have names vs. numbers or why three of them - "A Transparency Through," "While Still and Moving," "Distant Interior Winds" - are longer, exceeding 10 minutes each. But for listeners/seekers of refined perception, those are pieces to this introspectively wrought sonic puzzle that coalesce and reveal their elusive logic over time."
- Progression Magazine (Issue 67 - Spring 2015)
Kevin Kastning / Carl Clements
Greydisc Records - GDR3519
"The release of any CD by guitarist Kevin Kastning is always a very welcome event, whether solo or in tandem with other musicians, but this one, with the return of brass and winds player Carl Clements (sax is hybrid brass/wind), is particularly striking for its maturities even beyond Kastning's already documented deep thought structures and Clements' demonstrated acumen. The latter gent was impressive in twice falling (here and here) comfortably into Kevin's dark, brooding, fascinating, and highly literate greymist world but this time seems to have strikingly affected the guitarist's outlook, just as fully invested in every passing second of the recording.
The first cut, A Transparency Through is chamber music of the highest order, novo-neoclassical but with the ancientest of pastoralities bridging West to East, Clements more than once assuming the supernal vocabulary and colorations of a shakahuchi wafting out from the most introspective of meditations in a forbidding Tibetan monastery high in barren mountains. That atmosphere persists through the entire length of the seven cuts. Kastning is unbelievably restrained, but, God, what a wealth of brooding emotion and terrene/cosmic insight wells up in the relative quietude of it all! I've never heard him this reserved yet absolutely precise in every note and chord, never the slightest bit off the mark, hitting a zen paradox of so much with so little. His main axes are two of the many the ever-searching player has invented over the years: the 36-string double contra-guitar and the 30-string contra-soprano guitar, and they shimmer with eerie resonances and full-throated rumbling austerities.
Kastning never stops looking for precisely the correct sound and then, once it's located, immediately proceeds to peer beyond that to the next possibility. This has intrigued luthiers no end, not to mention musicians and constantly fascinated audiences, whether they're attending concerts in Europe or wearing out CDs through repeated listens. Watercolor Sky is the very essence of what Oregon created, why the ECM label rose to its heights, and a ne plus ultra in modern art, stunningly remarkable…but not, I'm afraid, a work for the Everyman, though I dearly wish it were otherwise. This is art clearly standing out as a set of modern classical opuses, requiring a well developed set of aesthetics to fully appreciate. It can occupy no other niche and deserves regard alongside Glass, Bryars, Takemitsu, and myriad idiosyncratic others. I've received a wealth of incredibly good CDs this year, but this one tops them all. Riveting."
– FAME Magazine / Mark S. Tucker (US)
By Kevin Kastning / Carl Clements
Label: Greydisc Records
Watercolor Sky tracks:
1. A Transparency Through
2. The Sharing of Color and Visible
3. This Daytime Haunted
4. In Spiral Streams
5. Complete and Early if Later
6. While Still and Moving
7. Distant Interior Winds
Notes from some eccentric artists.
Kevin Kastning is an inventor. Of course, he is an uber-talented instrumentalist and composer as well, but anyone that can conjure up a 36-string Double Contraguitar is a luthierian wizard. Yes, that is two 18-string fret boards on an electric body base. It is not a harp guitar. It looks like a huge, V-shaped cheese grater. I don’t mean to sound unkind, because Kastning's sounds are phenomenal. Sometimes it is the demonic grumblings of an earthbound tragic soul and at other times, it is the otherworldly keen of a celestial muse. Overall, his organic, avant-garde style is unique and refreshing. Then we have saxophonist Carl Clements. His talents are well known to the jazz world, but his style is completely complementary to that of Kastning's. The timbre of his tenor and soprano saxophones soar, glide and dive into Kevin's compositions, giving them a distinctive sense of balance. Their latest collaboration, Watercolor Sky is a seven-track recording of experimental contemporary music. I would be hard pressed to think that these singular compositions could not be anything but improvisational. They are so remarkable that I could not see how they could possibly be rehearsed. And then there are the cryptic, or should I say, the unusual track titles. Most of them can be put together to form a cogent thought and are just short of Haiku. Luckily, there is enough space here for me to review all the tracks. The shortest being about five minutes and the longest over ten minutes of enjoyment.
The opening track, A Transparency Through is a window to the recording. A sharp, clear tune that promises light, but delivers wonder. Musically, the sky we see is gray at first, but it changes to a pale blue. It is completely empty and just waiting for us to paint with our own imagination.
The music announces that light can be had in more shades than gray and pale blue on the tune The Sharing of Color and Visible. The moody piece features an alto saxophone that is slinky and subtle. Kastning uses low notes, almost like a piano's lower register to vary the landscape. Instead of what may be obvious, perhaps he is calling attention more to what we don’t see.
This Daytime Haunted has a mysterious ambiance overshadowing a jazz tone poem. Clements’s soprano sax reaches high into the patchwork sky, the notes like crows flitting from wire to wire in search of a sometimes-raucous adventure. If anything, the scenario is ominous.
The sense of drifting about takes place on the song In Spiral Streams. The piece is Eno-esque in its warmth and simplicity. Luckily, spirals can go up as well as down and we are allowed to see all there is to see as we drift upward. We have to be cautious, because once we've reached apogee, everything becomes indistinct. What then?
Complete and Early If Later is slightly minimalistic, but not sluggish. Granted, there are some silences in between the sparse notes, but it is a time for reflection. The sax seems to be questioning the changes in the sky, from light to dark, while the guitar's contribution seems to simply punctuation.
Seemingly a contradiction in terms, the tune While Still and Moving is one of the most flowing pieces on Watercolor Sky. Clements's flute haunts the song and contrary to its title, Kastning adds a modest flurry of activity with his somber fretwork. It is as if the two musicians are attempting a balance, each taking his turn.
Distant Interior Winds is the final painting by these two noteworthy sound artists. It sounded somewhat like a continuation of the previous tune and it shared some of the same qualities of flow and ebb. There is a pronounced darkness to the music, but then introspection is like that sometimes. Kastning seems to take a back seat to Clements's work on this, but not entirely. He adds just enough counterpoint to stabilize the extraordinary piece.
At first I thought that Watercolor Sky was undoubtedly a black & white opus. I soon learned that is was a vivid recording with countless shades of gray and featuring layer after layer of acoustic textures. Although it has its roots is jazz, it gets tangential, and soon spreads into to other related genres. The music can be a companion to you when you want to be alone with your thoughts or when you want to experiment with the art of slowing down time.
Rating: Very Good
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 9/12/2014
– Zone Music Reporter (US)
Reviewed Edition: CD with 4-page booklet
Label: GREYDISC RECORDS
Reference: GDR 3519
Tracklist: 1 A Transparency Through 2 // The Sharing of Color and Visible // 3 This Daytime Haunted // 5 In Spiral Streams // Complete and Early if Later // 6 While Still and Moving // 7 Interior Distant Winds
Artists: Kevin Kastning (36-string Double Contraguitar, 30-string Contra-Soprano guitar), and Carl Clements (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute and Bansuri flute)
Musical works: Written by Kevin Kastning and Carl Clements
Artistic Design: Chris Friel (cover photo)
Technical data: Recorded in the winter of 2013 in Studio Traumwald (US), mixed and mastered by Sándor Szabó at Tandem Records Experimental Studio (Vac, Hungary)
Musical compositions you'll want to hear a thousand times: 2 The Sharing of Color and Visible // 3 This Daytime Haunted // Complete and Early if Later // 7- Interior Distant Winds
"A new album from these two musical geniuses, Kevin Kastning and Carl Clements, whose last album was released late last July through the prestigious Greydisc Records label. A title with multiple and secret meanings, "Watercolor Sky," this CD edition is adorned with an evocative photograph for the cover taken by Chris Friel, where the image of beauty in dark gray tones bewitch achieved by the definition of the reality that, on the lower side which reflects the sky and trees, offers a world of light and clarity to a real dark gray sky as if he could transform our world. The top half of the cover chills us and, instead, the lower half seems born of another dimension, even though we know it's their reflection. Amazing scene with our eyes being delighted with this, more like a visual and psychological illusionist game. I had long been waiting for this new musical work of Kevin Kastning and Carl Clements because in his previous album "Nowhere Now Here," as outlined in Lux Atenea Webzine, I left impressed by such a show of musical talent to create magical sound through the melodic beauty that offers the combined guitar with saxophone and flute. A truly impatient waiting has been worthwhile in view of this new demonstration of artistic mastery and interpretive themes totalling seven precious compositions that give life to "Watercolor Sky," may well check it out by and be enjoyed by the music lovers of Lux Atenea Webzine readers who purchase this album in its original edition. In addition, the superb technical recording work performed by the great teacher Sándor Szabó offers an optimal level of sound quality of each of these album releases to turn your hearing into pleasure. Thus, audible forcefulness presents the first theme, "A Transparency Through," with guitar and flute as protagonists of this melodic charm that will be blurring and expanding our minds to surrender our will in favor of musical pleasure appearing after "The Sharing of Color and Visible" with vibrant color and light impulse languish in turn in this sublime extension of tempo until, intoxicated by the entrance of the saxophone in the composition "This Daytime Haunted," we vibrate with the instrumental textures' strong character. Subsequently, "In Spiral Streams" welcomes us in its harmonious composition and seductively calms ourselves before the composition "Complete and Early if Later" surprised us with this talented musical structure where the experimental vacuum also becomes part of structuring and definition. "While Still and Moving" presents a more intimate and slow sonic personality, the composition "Interior Distant Winds" brings an end to this remarkable and innovative work with soft scented haze serenity in the vastness of night makes the world around us. "Watercolor Sky," when the mastery of composition and musical performance this label offers music lovers gems for music lovers. Enjoy it!"
– Lux Atenea Webzine (SPAIN)
Truly an album of inspirational music making, Watercolor Sky is the 2014 collaboration recording by guitarist Kevin Kastning and horn / woodwinds player Carl Clements. The duo’s 2013 CD Nowhere, Now Here was more dynamic than their first album, Dreaming As I Knew, and 2014's Watercolor Sky presents an even more in depth look into their mix of acoustic guitar and sax. Commenting on the duo's three albums together, Kastning explains, 'These three records are separate entities; not really connected; though each may build off the previous. Each record has its own direction and concept, and the only influence from our previous records is that we agree we don't want to repeat any previous concepts or directions. For example, we have our fourth record almost completely recorded, and it's a departure from Watercolor Sky. I think each record moves things forward in an expansive way', with Clements further adding, 'I do see the conceptions of each of our albums so far as being both progressive and distinct. They’re progressive in the sense that our rapport and reservoir of ideas continues to grow, and we’re constantly exploring new directions, concepts, and even instruments and instrumental combinations.' Calling Kastning just an acoustic guitarist would be a disservice. Scripting his albums like spatial instrumental soundtracks, Kastning appears more like the Rod Serling of the 36 string double contra guitar, directing his latest instrument which he debuts on this album. The music that Kastning and Clements create together on Watercolor Sky is beyond words, more like the soundtrack to an M.C. Esher painting. Intricate, prismatic are words you could use to describe Watercolor Sky. From the eerie cover art / Rohrshach painting on the cover, to the rich sonic details and calculus of Kastning’s piano like 36 string guitar and the wide range of Clements’ towery horns, Watercolor Sky is a total sonic trip well worth taking.
– Music Web Express 3000 magazine (US)
Kastning – Carl Clements: Watercolor Sky (CD)
The name of the American guitarist, composer, Kevin Kastning can sound quite familiar here in Hungary, due to his friend and fellow musician Szabó Sándor he had several performances for the Hungarian audience, not to mention that they made several excellent albums together. Kevin’s albums – independent of his partner,- are always great experiences to listen to, just like the latest release from the American label Greydisc Records, the album called Watercolor Sky.
This is already the third album with woodwinds player Carl Clements. Their first duo album was Dreaming As I Knew, released two years ago, then Nowhere, Now Here, followed it a year later. Fortunately, we did not have to wait so long for the newest album. Before I introduce the new album in details, I would like to share some interesting facts about Kastning. Kevin Kastning is not only a great composer and performer, but also a great innovator: He plays two very special doubleneck Contraguitars with 30 and 36 strings. This design is based on his ideas. I am sure that the sound of these instruments cannot be compared to other instruments. They are made of carbon fiber composite materials, which is an excellent alternative for building string instruments. This is apparent from listening to the tracks of the Watercolor Sky album.
Kastning’s musical approach is human and transcendent at the same time: to link his spiritual consciousness to the rational reality. I know all the records of Kastning, and I can state that this intention can be felt in all of his works.
The more than one-hour long album contains seven tracks. The album starts with
the longest and strongest piece, the almost 11-minute timeless and mystic
sounding track called „A Transparency Through”. On this track, we can hear the
magical sounding 36-string guitar. Later on the album we will have opportunity
to hear the 30-string Contra-Soprano guitar, too. The tracks called „The Sharing
of Color and Visible”, „In Spiral Sreams” and the „Distant Interior Winds” are
rich in music symbolism, like the opening and entrance in the opening track. In
other tracks, however we have to listen to very carefully to explore the
I have two favorites on this album: the „Complete and Early if Later” and the „While Still and Moving”. Somehow I feel that all the moods and feelings which feature this album are distillated into these two compositions. These pieces like milestones give reference to the listener, though they are perhaps the most two difficult pieces on the album. For the listener who can feel this, the depth of the whole repertoire will open up.
This is why this album demands more attention and elaboration than the average. Without such a concentration the music can be a puzzle for the casual listener. We should not forget that the artist goes one or more steps ahead from us. They are able to enlarge simple phenomena and impulses through the prism of their soul and they can get special colors in their unsolvable, ultimate chords. With a good listening attitude we can sense something of this.
Ekultura Magazine (HUNGARY)
KEVIN KASTNING-CARL CLEMENTS/Watercolor Sky
"When you're listening to the new work of a guy that invents things like a 30- and a 36-string guitar, words like "I don't know how he does it" just don't seem to paint enough of the picture. With only his long time sax player at his side, this duo steps up yet again with something different to say and really don't need more players to flesh out the sound. Minimalist as it reads, even when they go off on spiritual sounding tangents, it still sounds like left leaning contemporary instrumental music as opposed to new age. Channeling Fahey, Basho and the rest of that ilk when they would make their inner journeys, Kastning proves that less is more and dazzles once more. Killer stuff that shows how sitting down music is done right."
- Midwest Record Magazine; August 2014 (US)
Kevin Kastning & Carl Clements: Watercolor Sky; reviewed by Roger Trenwith
"Experimental acoustic guitarist Kevin Kastning and his long-time colleague,
saxophone and flute player Carl Clements return with an album seeped in
melancholy. Watercolor Sky is the third album by the intrepid acoustic music
explorers that I have reviewed on these pages, and they are keeping up a high
level of output with at least one album per year.
The opening track A Transparency Through sets the scene. The low chords played by Kevin on his own invention, the 36-string double contra guitar sound like the low notes of a piano to these ears. Here they form the introduction to a slow, reflective piece led by Carl's bansuri, an Indian bamboo flute that illuminates a dark and haunting pastel beauty beyond the light mist.
Although more often than not the lead instrument is played by Carl, the structure of these pieces is down to Kevin. On this album he restricts himself to two instruments; the aforementioned 36-stringer and a 30-string contra-soprano guitar. These creations of Kevin are built for him by Emerald Guitars in Ireland, and are worth an article by themselves. Exquisite examples of undiluted craftsmanship, they are unlike anything I have come across before. Have a look here to get an idea of what Kevin is playing. The guitar players among you may pick yourselves off the floor now!
Carl's use of traditional and ethnic reed instruments adds the washed-out colour to Kevin's more experimental forays into harmonics and occasional dissonance, conveying a deeply contemplative atmosphere. The pace is stately and unhurried throughout, akin to a rusty-coloured leaf swinging and falling oh so slowly from the uppermost branches of an ancient oak in autumn.
Kevin uses dissonance to make the mists shift and shimmy as though interrupted by unsettling but subtle interference to Carl's stately and intermittently-atonal alto flute on The Sharing of Color and Visible. Carl's soprano saxophone makes an appearance on The Daytime Haunted, a piece with an appropriate title, and one that fits into the overall developing theme. Here and for the following three tracks Kevin is playing a mere 30-stringed guitar, and, not being a guitar player, the subtle differences between this and the 36-string monster are lost on me, not that it detracts from the album's mesmerising qualities one little bit.
In various combinations of reeds and impossible guitars we wend our way through the dappled forest, the gentle caresses of alto flute complementing the tinkling of the 30-string guitar on In Spiral Streams. A soulful tenor sax adds depth to the melody continued from the previous track on the mysteriously titled Complete and Early if Later.
We return to the alto flute for the last two tracks; ten minutes apiece. In actual fact the length of these pieces is irrelevant as the whole album forms a suite of intuitive mood songs that gently add layers to a tranquil but sometimes eerie soundtrack to an unwritten fairy tale, as old as the ancient forest itself. The final track Distant Interior Winds sees the return of the 36-string guitar after an introduction of more of the sinuous alto flute from Carl. The deep resonance of Kevin's instrument forges an undercurrent of vague menace, hinting at something unresolved.
One can use this album in two ways; as background music for study or work, or as an intensely personal inner journey. Both work just fine. Watercolor Sky is the work of two musicians who pick up on each other's moods with the ease of the long-acquainted players that they are, and it is unlike anything else you will hear this year."
– Dutch Progressive Rock Page (HOLLAND)
Kevin Kastning & Carl Clements - "Watercolor Sky"
"Kevin Kastning is a real pioneer in modern acoustic guitar playing and has
received quite some recognition in the music press. During his time at Berklee
College of Music in Boston he studied with guitar legend Pat Metheny. Later he
also played with guys like Michael Manring, Dominic Miller, Sandor Szabo and
Mark Wingfield. Besides composing and playing Kevin also invented a batch of new
acoustic instruments like the 36-string (!) Double Contraguitar (used on this
recording) the DKK-12 12-string extended baritone guitar and many more. Very
impressive stuff ! He’s also an artist endorser for nine companies.
After the 2012 release “Dreaming As I Knew” Kevin once more teamed up with his fellow contemporary music explorer Carl Clements for “Watercolor Sky”, again released on Greydisc Records. Just as Kevin, Carl plays a wild range of (woodwind) instruments: saxophones and flutes like the bansuri, a north Indian bamboo flute. (Ed. correction: the album from Kevin and Carl that followed "Dreaming As I Knew" was 2013's "Nowhere; Now Here.")
So, how does it all sound then ? Well, let me say this in advance: this is not entertaining music in the regular way. Don’t expect catchy melodies or even smoothly floating ambient/new-age music, this is above all a journey into the quantum field of possibilities, a study of the endless superpositions that both players can evoke from their consciousness while translating these superpositions to their instruments and to you as a listener. Demanding stuff that doesn’t sink in easily but for open minded listeners it is, in a way, still very intriguing. One thing I personally like are the sometimes droning tones that lie underneath. Just listen to the opening track ‘A Transparency Through’, a deeply spiritual piece and you can easily transfer yourself to a Tibetan monastery.
In the end I would say that these two master musicians have definitely succeeded in making inventive, new music but I wonder if many people will be really mesmerized by it (yet)."
– Spotlight On webzine (THE NETHERLANDS)
- MWE3.com webzine (US)
"I think its a great album, I like every track a lot. You both play wonderfully and much of it sounds very composed. Beautiful music throughout. I would be very proud to release this music if I’d been the one who recorded it. It think its a great album. For This Daytime Haunted, I keep wondering how the hell you guys did this track. Did you have anything planned? Was any part of it written? This track just blows me away."
- Mark Wingfield (UK)
"Many thanks for the copy of Watercolor Sky. It's a
lovely pairing and the music is gorgeous!"
- Michael Manring (US)
"Many thanks, Kevin, for sending me a copy of your excellent Watercolor
Sky. I live on a lake and within seconds I knew where I would be listening
start to finish. Again, thanks so much for thinking of me; and congratulations
to you and Carl for a job well done."
- Mike Metheny (US)
"Carl & Kevin, just listened to
The Sharing of Color and Visible: took me right out of the studio and
lifted me to a very serene place that I had never been to before. Almost sensuous."
- John Leite (US)
For Watercolor Sky, I have only one word: awesome.
For the first few notes of the 1st track I thought there was a prepared piano… You got quite a sound with those latest CF contra guitars, quite unique and beautiful. The flutes blend perfectly with your sound. Quite a departure from you other recordings, I hear distinctly an Eastern flavour, not only in the musical language, but also in the sparse nature of the tunes. I have to listen to it more, but I think this may be my favorite recording of yours.
Congratulations, this is quite original and the mature interplay between you and Carl sounds written although I am quite sure it is not."
- Laurent Brondel (US/France)
"Watercolor Sky is a lovely album, Kevin!"
- Joel Krutt, host of "Pushing the Envelope," WHUS-FM; Hartford, CT
Watercolor Sky is a very nice CD, I love it!
Great compositions and superb sound! Sometimes your instrument sounds almost like a piano when you hit a low string. Did you special tune some octave strings in a 9th interval or do you finger these wonderful dissonances?
I like this album the best out of all your albums! Let me say this, and please take is as a compliment, it reminds me a little bit of the feeling of the great Miles Davis album "In A Silent Way" (I usually avoid saying "this reminds me of that", but I believe to put it right along the great Miles Davis should be okay).
I am sure you will have tons of success with it. I am proud that K&K is a part of it!"
Thank you, all the best,
K&K Sound Systems (US)
"In Watercolor Sky, the initial, stunning,
piano-like bass chords, with sustain like a belfry bell, from the 30-string, are
literally heretofore unheard sonic pleasures. Not unheard just by me, but by
nearly everybody. Then the Bansuri melded in to make it an engaging conversation
between two very different but blendable voices.
On In Spiral Streams, at 0:39 & 0:59 you get a rapid sequence of 3 or 4 harmonic notes as though you strummed across at least 3 strings while managing to hold fingers on the strings with the left hand (or at least that’s the only way I can think of how you did that, altho the notes sound as tho the strings were plucked rather than strummed). The first note in the sequence is like an extremely quick acciaccatura (what would I do sans google? I even found the pronunciation. My musical education is taking a huge bound as I try to get my ears around this extraordinary creation). Really fascinating sounds--the entire album—a feast of new sonic experiences! The soprano in This Daytime Haunted is most agreeable."
- D.P., Concord, Massachusetts (US)
"Thanks Kevin for sharing your wonderful CD Watercolor Sky
with me ... it's such a outstanding piece of art ... I really, really,
really enjoyed it very much!!!
All the best from Germany,
– Ralf Gauck (GERMANY)
"Dear Kevin & Carl,
When I listen to the new album "Watercolor Sky", I see ... beautiful, sad pictures, floating between two worlds... almost palpable smell too. thank you for the feeling.
Peace & love,"
– Hutton László (HUNGARY)