30/36: Reviews and Quotes

Kevin Kastning: 30/36

The rather unusual title of this album is a reference to the two instruments used throughout, namely a 36-string Double Contraguitar and the 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, both of which were invented by Kastning. This is his 33rd album for Greydisc Records, and his fifth totally solo, and he is at home composing and performing chamber music as he is working in the avant garde with musicians such as Michael Manring and Mark Wingfield. Yet another graduate of the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston, he has also studied privately with Pat Metheny. There are times when the guitar sounds like a harpsichord, or a piano with the sustaining pedal depressed, or even a sitar while musically it is like some of the most intricate and riveting classical music one could come across. The recording quality is incredible, and this is an album which really rewards being played on headphones, as it is only then that the reverb and the use of space/silence comes into full prominence. Dynamic, powerful and riveting, this is classical guitar taken to a whole new level. The instruments being deployed are huge, and massively complicated to play, yet this soon becomes about the music and not about how it has been put together. When I start listening to the album the world drifts away and I am taken to a new place. This is no music which can be played in the background, but rather something which needs close attention as only then will the listener truly enjoy and understand the sheer beauty contained within.  (Five stars)

-- Progressor Magazine (Uzbekistan)
   July 2019

Kevin Kastning: 30/36

"When you invent guitars of 15, 17, 18, 30 or 36 strings, we can say that you are a pretty exceptional instrument designer. When over a period of thirty years, you have to your credit forty participations in albums, solo or with other artists, we can say that you are a prolific artist. If in addition, you collaborate with MICHAEL MANRING, MARK WINGFIELD, SÁNDOR SZABÓ or CARL CLEMENTS, that you have studied with PAT METHENEY and that your albums have been recognized and rewarded by magazines and radio stations, then you are obviously talented. All of these attributes belong to one person, Mr. Kevin Kastning, a musician from Kansas. As if that were not enough, he is also a composer of modern classical music for chamber music, string quartets and more.

On the album "30/36", he explores the possibilities of these two new instruments, his thirty-six string guitars. These are the only instruments used even if you will have the impression of hearing double bass at times since it expands the usual possibilities associated with guitars with such a large number of strings at its service. KEVIN KASTNING does not fall into the trap of pure and simple demonstration. There is no question of a deluge of notes or demonstrating what each string can do in succession. The proposed music breathes and offers atmospheres that sometimes reminded me of the soundtrack of a film by Alfred HITCHCOCK or DAVID LYNCH. The ethereal and atmospheric sides made me think a lot about some of the ECM label's proposals. I could also make some analogy with the record series "Private parts and pieces" by ANTHONY PHILLIPS.

I give some references but in reality it is an unclassifiable music. It's not classical music, it's not jazz, blues, folk, New Age or even rock. Yet, we find a little bit of all this in one form or another. In this sense, we can associate Mr. KASTNING with progressive music. But his approach, sometimes meditative or introspective, is not one of ease and it is possible that a listener with little knowledge or attention is confused or does not find immediate satisfaction. However, a curious music lover, explorer or guitarist who wants to discover these instruments and their possibilities will listen to this album with pleasure."

- Profil Prog Magazine (CANADA)
  April 2019




Kevin Kastning - 30/36

When I accepted the opportunity to study this recording, I was unfamiliar with the works of Kevin Kastning. The first thing I did was visit his official website in an attempt to get to know his personality, what he sees as important, to understand what he wants the world to know about himself and how he views those who visit.

After that, I went to the mp3 files that were sent forth for me to hear. That's when it got real. The first lingering chord on this record tells you that you are going somewhere you may never have imagined. We are all familiar with McLaughlin, Frisell, Cooder, and other guitarist/explorers, now Kastning picks up where they dropped us off.

In order to fully appreciate what is happening here, it is important to empty oneself of all preconception, prejudice, and expectation. Let go of convention and familiarity. It is music being played for "new people" on new instruments.

Music created by an artist who hears a sound that we do not normally hear. A sound so personal and rare that the musician found it necessary to invent instruments that are able to reproduce and express it. There is as much Tesla here as there is Townsend, Travis, or Trower. Is it Classical? Is it Jazz? Is it Folk/World Music? My answer is "all and neither of the above."

This recording is an invitation into the future, and yet, it is as primal as the moment when one of our ancestors first plucked a bow. it is a calling to open a door that we have often glimpsed in the corner of your eye, but never stopped to investigate. Now we do not have to, because Kevin Kastning is doing it for us.

Do not be in a hurry when you listen. These unique works request patience and bravery. As in every case, your existence will be expanded and enriched as a result.

-- Clouzine (CANADA)
   May 2019
   (Joe Kidd)



Out of 36 albums, this is only Kastning's 5th solo album. Do you think he cared what kind of marks he got in grade school for works and plays well with others? Whether alone or in groupings, he never fails to create mystic worlds that ride the lines between new age, prog, contemporary classical and what ever passing fancies might ride by. An intricate and ear opening work of great invention, this string wizard shows more imagination that a fleet of Disney artists. Killer stuff for the intense guitar fan that really wants to be taken away to far off places.
(Greydisc 3546)

-- Midwest Record webzine (US)
   December 2018


Greydisc 2018

Ethereal if muscular, renown guitarist’s new acoustic trip results in punchy gratification.
Following in the wake of Kevin Kastning’s music is akin to stepping behind the Pied Piper without knowing his destination, but it’s difficult not to think at some point whether the artist himself knows the final point of this journey, because he’s led by instruments, rather than other way around, and relies on his instincts, rather than solid plan. Intrigue serves KK well, though, and continuing the approach applied to "17/66" – the American’s previous solo effort, released earlier in the year – he splits the “66” into original fractions, 30-string contra-alto guitar and 36-string double contraguitar, and combines them to a great effect.
KK’s attacking these strings in “Wotruba I” with quite an unexpected force ` leaves long, pregnant pauses between short series of notes to conjure majestic tension before dissolving it in a delicate, if deceptively dissonant, Renaissance-styled tune and then snapping the piece’s scope back to a ripple. Just as unpredictably, “Bahuya I” has bluesy eeriness to the strum that may seem static until slight variations develop a melody – clear in a folksy way and welcoming, too – only to assault the fretboard one more time.
If focus feels somewhat lost in larger numbers such as “Bahuya II” whose parts are stitched together in a sort of haphazard fashion, it’s only because more time is needed to assess a full picture KK is painting here. Still, there’s a lot of wonder in “Wotruba II” where intensely woven quasi-traditional motifs conspire to create an enchanting soundscape, for this dynamic space to be inhabited by “Malleus Anguli” and tenderly hammered into angular shapes with the cut’s two parts.
But while “Wotruba III” is a trip into non-surf-like twang and emotional thrash, “Aequus Nox I” – another diptych on the loosely concept album – fares as nocturnal as its title suggests, and also infernal. These fire and darkness are essential to the master’s method: which is why following in the wake of his music can’t be more exciting.

-- Let it Rock webzine (CANADA)
   December 2018

Kevin Kastning — 30/36
(Greydisc GDR 3546, 2018, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2019-01-25

"This is Kevin Kastning solo. Alone, sparse, wandering, introspective and meditative, playing either his 30-string contra-alto guitar, or his 36-string double Contraguitar. This marks his fifth completely solo effort among 33 solo and collaborations on Greydisc records. Some may wonder why Kastning releases so many discs, but if the ideas are there along with the feeling inside, the muse must be shared, and given that what he produces is so unique, a product of his own soundworld with his numerous custom and completely unusual sounding stringed instruments, there is certainly none other like him. A true original. With 30/36, many of the pieces here are short suites that go through a number of ideas before they conclude; they tend to be a bit longer than most of his compositions, many in the six to ten minute range, evoking a range of different feelings as they wander through a number of phases, much like fragments of dreams with hidden portals that the listener crosses as they find their way to and through the next hidden step. Every piece is somewhat reflective and provides a solitary and peaceful space for the imagination to grow freely. “Bahuya II” begins with a four note descending melody repeated only a few times before it begins to morph and wander into spaces completely unlike where it began, all the time emphasizing the importance of space between notes, allowing the listener openings where the notes in play can be processed. “Wotruba II” follows it, offering a more dense playground over a fully panoramic spectrum, with numerous layers of ever-shifting dynamics and reclusive strands of compelling dissonance. The album closer “Aequus Nox II” is another where silence and spaces are are as powerful as the notes and structures that separate them. All nine tracks on 30/36 taken together make for one powerful and epic mind journey."

-- Exposé Magazine (US)
   February 2019


Kastning, Kevin: 30/36
Kevin Kastning is at it again with his new album 30/36, the follow-up to 17/66. This is Kastning’s thirty-third album on Greydisc Records, an impressive body of work to say the least. On the album Kastning plays his 36-string Double Contraguitar and 30-string Contra-Alto guitar.

As with all of Kastning’s releases, 30/36 is very much an experimental acoustic album inundated with Kastning’s unique approach to sound design. His playing merges softly plucked notes with more intense playing. The use of harmonics and sustain really stand out on this one as the ringing tones and vibrating sounds reverberate through the soundscape adding some truly haunting atmospheres. As with much of Kastning’s work doing a track by track review wouldn’t be very effective as this is an album that could almost be considered as one fifty-two minute piece. It’s a very fluid affair making this an ideal album to just sit back and relax to, taking it all in in one sitting. If you have enjoyed Kastning’s past works this latest offering should do the trick as well. If you are new to the artist, an appreciation of mellow ambient sounds all wrapped in an experimental approach would be considered essential. Kastning’s sound concoctions are really quite unique.

- Sea of Tranquility (CANADA)
  May 2020


"30/36 is very cool: just enough implied harmonic and melodic structure to be meaningfully deconstructed by percussive stringing. Let the sonic shards fall where they may, eh?"

-- Will Clipman
   Percussionist and 7-time Grammy Award nominee (US)