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Kastning, Kevin/Sandor Szabo: Ethereal III

Having encountered a number of the vast catalogue of works by Contraguitarist Kevin Kastning (an instrument he designed), I have no hesitation in saying that his third Ethereal album alongside guitarist Sandor Szabo caught me completely off guard. Not only is Szabo credited as providing ‘orchestration’, but Kastning himself exclusively plays piano, meaning that an album which features two guitarists and no one else, actually contains not one moment of guitar playing. Incredibly it’s a masterstroke and one that, for someone who must admit to being an admirer of Kastning’s individual approach to music without really being too excited by the results, suddenly makes sense of the sounds that he creates.

Interestingly the parallels that can be drawn between Ethereal III and the two previous outings by the pair under this banner are much more clear than would maybe have been anticipated but while the ethos of sparse, tense forays where space is just as important as sound, continues unabated, there’s a willingness on the part of this album to allow you into its way of thinking much more readily. What that means for the supporters of Kastning’s previous work I’m not sure but I have no hesitation in admitting that I have found this album engaging in a way I really had not anticipated. Not that Ethereal III is easy listening, or hook led melodic fare. Nothing could be further from the truth but there’s a world built here that at least looks to beckon you onto its bare and foreboding landscape.

Pensive and never passive, from the opening atmospheres of “Lux Noctem Caligo I”, through the swoop and swipe of “Apertis et Tenebris” and right the way to the closing challenge of “Arcanus per Arcanum III”, Kastning and Szabo still insist that you check any reason for cheerful optimism at the door and immerse yourself in what is a harrowingly uncompromising experience. However, there are numerous payoffs along the way, most of which arrive through the ear-catching sparks of strings and angular piano permutations.

I can’t lie, the path taken by Kevin Kastning is never the easy one and even here on an accessible slice of his compositional output it remains austere and remote. Thankfully, at least for me, Ethereal III does cede just ever so slightly into allowing the less fervent followers of the man’s music into his way of thinking.

Track Listing
1. Lux Noctem Caligo I
2. Lux Noctem Caligo II
3. Lux Noctem Caligo III
4. Sic Clavicus aer Coelum
5. Tractus Abstantia
6. Apertis et Tenebris
7. Arcanus per Arcanum I
8. Arcanus per Arcanum II
9. Arcanus per Arcanum III

Added: January 4th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Ethereal III @ CD Baby
Hits: 815
Language: english

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