STEPHAN THELEN — Fractal Guitar (review)

STEPHAN THELEN — Fractal Guitar album cover Album · 2018 · Nu Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
The MoonJune label has earned a reputation as a leader in international jazz fusion, but they also maintain several artists who work in experimental and psychedelic rock, albeit often with a modern fusion influence as well. Stephan Thelan is such an artist, and has been working somewhat under the radar for several decades releasing solo ambient albums, modern compositions and groove oriented psychedelic group efforts. His latest album, “Fractal Guitar”, is one such group oriented album that features a rotating cast of guitarists and drummers who composed and jammed with Stephan over the last three years. Stephan then picked out the best tracks from several recording sessions. On the surface, “Fractal Guitars” has that space rock meets trip hop groove we might associate with artists such as Ozric Tentacles or Bill Laswell, but this album is more than just jam sessions. Moments of composition help offset tedium and Stephan and his crew often build complex interlocking rhythms that would normally be beyond the grasp of your average ‘jam band’.

Stephan wanted to invite some of his favorite guitarists to participate on this CD, and there are too many to list, but some of the better known include David Torn, Henry Kaiser and Markus Reuter. All of the cosmic guitar solos on here are excellent, and no one gets too carried away. Fortunately this is not a guitar solo slugfest, instead, much of “Fractal” consists of those aforementioned interlocking rhythms riding on top of polyrhythmic odd-metered dub and drumnbass influenced drum patterns. When it comes to this kind of sound oriented music, production is so important and the production on here is outstanding and very much in line with some of Bill Laswell’s best work.

If you enjoy artists such as Pete Cosey, Terje Rypdal, early 70s Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage and Nicky Skopelitis, then you know what to expect here, plenty of electronically enhanced fret fireworks reaching for the infinite beyond mixed with hypnotic ritual rhythm riffs.
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