steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Steffen Basho-Junghans

"7Books" 2CD

Strange Attractors Audio House

Genres: avant-garde, experimental folk, instrumental

Strange Attractors
PO Box 13007
Portland OR 97213

Sep 26 - Oct 3 2004

For his 2004 release, Steffen Basho-Junghans continues to explore the boundaries of acoustic guitar music, this time in the form of a double-disc set.  As usual, his experimentalism is daring without being alienating - though each of these CDs focuses on a different instrument (six-string and slide guitar, respectively), there's enough continuity between them to make for a relaxing and surprisingly accessible release.  7Books is background music for the unenlightened, and vivid mind-expansion for those in the know.

The main criticism of 7Books will relate to how it compares with his previous work - although the content is different, there are many similarities.  Over a lengthy release such as this, one can become a bit bored with how little change there is.  Basho-Junghans' music certainly requires a high level of patience.

Assuming a conventional navigation through this disc (7Books doesn't really lend itself to convention), we find ourselves beginning with the album's first movement, an over eighteen minute composition of what has been endearingly dubbed "experimental folk."  Instrumental and recorded live, like everything else on this album, it meanders through various ups and downs - sporadic outbursts of vigorous plucking, followed by silence, complemented by complexly melodic strumming.  The formula is there, but otherwise the work is quite unpredictable - improvisation doesn't tend towards rigidity.  The same general approach is continued through the rest of disc one, with obvious variations.  Moments of the second movement are positively inspirational - Basho-Junghans explores the guitar's capabilities with multiple layers of sound, dripping pretty chimes under louder, rhythmic strumming.

The second disc is a bit of a departure, as it lets Steffen experiment with the slide guitar.  Although this isn't the instrument I normally associate him with, he doesn't seem at all out of place.  The plucking continues similarly, but the sound is - of course - more fluid and whiny.  Microtonal shifts come in droves, giving the music a very dreamy, melodic sound.  The fourth piece, for example, contains some of Steffen's most poignant material to date.  Shifting, bleeding guitar notes are assembled perfectly amidst the more jarring, chugging parts - the results are whimsical and moody.

7Books marks another success in Steffen Basho-Junghans' continuing legacy.  It is the final chapter in his series of interrelated acoustic guitar exploration albums, and makes for a very fitting conclusion.  Now, we're left to wonder: what comes next?


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 7 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2004]