Invocation: Reviews and Quotes

Greydisc 2017

"When deities need no words to hear voices in the wilderness, strings create acoustic hosanna.

KK and SS get to know each other more and more with every new record, “Invocation” being their seventh joint effort as a duo, and the guitarists’ weave is possessed with immense intimacy, yet this offering has an extra dimension to it – a divine one. Ostensibly based on liturgy, the album creates a specifically transcendental headspace where not a lot of things seems to be happening, although there are many hidden moves under the hood.

Hymnal by nature, “Akathist” wraps a bubbling bottom end into nomadic trills that reach out for the tune’s event horizon only to be lost in their own dance on the way to cosmic infinity, while the interplay of “Psalm” is embracing acoustic exquisiteness. But then echoes subside to bring about the quiet joys of “Antiphon” whose two riveting parts pass a gypsy romance and prayer to other slowed-down double shots: “Litany” and “Vigil.” These compositions detail what’s supposed to be solemn exercises in serving God with emotional flurries of notes, yet “Consecration” may present an ultimate paradox when this tuneful ebb is infused with pregnant pauses

Still, where “Vobiscum” sounds vibrantly abstract and the stardust of “Orison” dissipates in aural vacuum, “Chant” has its sonics condensed in melodious Morse code of Renaissance stripe, and the elusive beauty of “Hymn” is being revealed progressively towards the piece’s finale. It’s a spiritual experience which would welcome everyone ready to believe."

-- Let it Rock webzine (CANADA)
   July 2018


Kevin Kastning / Sándor Szabó — Invocation


"Kastning followed The Line to Three with Invocation, another guitar-based collaboration on which his 36-string Double Contraguitar, 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, and 15-string Extended classical guitar pairs with Sándor Szabó's 16-string classical guitar; the all-acoustic focus naturally makes for a different soundworld than the one presented on the Wingfield outing. But though the timbres are less contrasting than they are in the acoustic-electric combination, it's not as if the sounds generated by Kastning and Szabó render them indistinguishable. The latter's are characterized by crystalline clarity and often assume the lead, Kastning content to support the melodic paths his partner pursues. Adding to the separation between their contributions, Kastning sometimes plays in the lower register and Szabó higher, the former thereby acting much as a bassist would in another context.

The fourteen pieces run the full gamut of techniques associated with acoustic playing, with strums and picking abundant. At the outset, a strong rhythmic insistence animates “Akathist,” propelling it forward as the players build interlaced latticeworks; taken at a slightly slower clip, “Psalm” captivates in the seeming ease with which the two deftly coil lines in and around one another. The staccato style deployed in “Chant” lends the music a rather spidery character; “Vigil I” and “Vigil II,” by comparison, exude a ruminative, stream-of-consciousness quality in their fluctuations of tempo, the material developing organically through the thought processes manifested in their playing. Szabó's considerable technical command and sensitivity to tempo, dynamics, and melody add greatly to the pleasures the listener derives from Invocation, and though eighty minutes is a lot, the duo's interplay is so in-the-moment engaging that the set doesn't, ultimately, feel overlong."

-- Textura Magazine (CANADA)
   April 2018


Kevin Kastning / Sándor Szabó

"Prolific instrument inventor/composer/performer Kevin Kastning is at it again, brandishing his mighty 36-string double-neck acoustic "classical" guitar, his 30-string Contra-Alto double-neck guitar and other behemoths of guitaristic expression. (Oh Jimmy Page, you never looked so impotent with your measly 18-string double-neck Gibson; only you, Rick Nielson, and your five-neck monstrosity with its 36-strings can hope to compare!) Joining Kevin once again is Sandor Szabo, a classical guitarist who turned to jazz and experimental music and, like Kastning, performs on unorthodox instruments (here, a 16-string classical guitar).

Performed fingerstyle in the classical manner, this music stands somewhere between Ralph Towner and modernist classical guitar repertoire, but it's not in the avant-garde/Stockhausen realm, nor akin to John Cage's experimentalism. As an example, "Antiphon II" is somehow reminiscent of Benjamin Britten's "Nocturnal," a centerpiece of modern classical guitar repertoire. (Britten is a conservative, "Nocturnal" being about as radical has he gets while remaining essentially tonal.) Elsewhere, "Chant" flirts with Fred Frithian experimentation and extended-ish technique with some clusters, subtle guitar noises, percussive sounds and the like. Overall, Invocation is challenging and satisfying."

-- Progression Magazine (issue 73)  (US)
   Winter 2018

"It took until this record for me to put my finger on the magic that Kastning holds sway over. Sonically, he may not walk a mile in John McLaughlin's shoes but in all other respects---chops, invention, forward thinking---he's certainly McLaughlin's spiritual son. If McLaughlin isn't your idea of a guitar god, plug in your own fave to complete the analogy on your own terms. This set finds him in his 7th pairing with Szabo and their multi stringed attack takes it into the realm of ECM meeting Shakti as the sun comes up in a mysterious place that exists in your mind. When simplicity like a guitar duo can knock you off your pins, you know there's something a lot deeper going on. A first class killer of a guitar excursion, sit down with no distractions and let this foreground music do it's thing. Wild."

-- Midwest Record magazine (US)
   August 2017

Kevin Kastning / Sándor Szabó — Invocation
(Greydisc GDR3534, 2017, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2017-10-07

Kastning and Szabó are a team that we have reviewed many times in these pages, and each new release by this duo is incrementally more interesting than the one that preceeded it. For the record, here Sandor Szabó plays only the 16-string classical guitar, while Kastning alternates between 36-string double contraguitar, 30-string contra-alto guitar, and 15-string extended classical guitar. The 14 pieces presented here wander freely, and seem to have a high improvisational content, merging ideas as they are made in real time, owing as much to space (absence of sound) as to the melodic scattering of sonic pixels and sprites and seemingly random chords. The alien feeling the listener experiences as the duo wander through caverns and portals truly makes for an otherworldly soundscape. There is no percussion so their wanderings are not anchored to any kind of enforced meter, thus offering additional freedom to create outside of that box. The listener needs to just let go of all the tethers of genre and follow freely wherever the duo goes, allowing the subtle shades and textures of the sound to be the only guide. This is a full length recording, nearly hitting the 80 minute mark overall, but the dreamy pace and wonderfully intricate detail of the two players’ intervoven melody lines, impossible chords and ever-shifting ideas, it never gets old. After at least two dozen spins I’m still discovering new things each time through. The feeling that much of this often reminds of the stillness and beauty of Steve Tibbetts’ Northern Song, evoking similar feelings, except here we have all these wonderful pan-dimensional guitars (and two guys who really know how to play them) and no percussion at all.

-- Exposé magazine (US)
   October 2017



Kastning, Kevin/Sándor Szabó: Invocation

"If you are a regular reader of this site chances are you have come across the pairing of Kevin Kastning and Sándor Szabó. Invocation is the duo's latest offering.

For those not in the know Kastning is a guitar player but not in the traditional sense. He plays contraguitars of his own design for which he must be congratulated. He makes some of the most uncompromising music I have heard and his work is completely noncommercial, almost to a fault. Let's just say the hooks are few and far between. Szabó is a classical guitarist with a similar musical outlook.

The music is spread between fourteen improvised pieces mostly moving at a slow dreamlike pace. The chords and notes sound random at times creating a dissonant palette of sounds while in other moments meld together in a more seamless fashion. This music will require your full concentration and isn't something that will be easily absorbed. The music is quite difficult to distinguish from one song to the next so you can almost think of this as one long seventy-nine minute piece. That may be good or bad depending on your perspective.

There is no doubting the talent of these players. Whether you find this disc palatable will be a matter of personal taste. Just remember the duo doesn't shift gears all that often and it tends to get a little brooding after a while. That said, the talent is certainly there and if you enjoy guitar structures venturing into dreamy dissonance you should likely check this out."

The players:
Kevin Kastning (36-string Double Contraguitar, 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, 15-string Extended Classical guitar)
Sándor Szabó (16-string Classical guitar)


-- Sea of Tranquility magazine (US)
   December 2017