Kevin Kastning / Sandor Szábó: Nograd

"It’s been a good while since I’ve listened to Kevin Kastning’s music for a long yet overdue time. Well it’s time for me to get back on the horse to ride again to see what I was missing from the man himself. And this time his tenth collaboration with guitarist Sandor Szabo with the release of their new album entitled Nograd on the Greydisc label, shows that he and Sandor have never disappointed me.

Recorded last year in September at the Evangelikus Templom in Nograd, Hungary for one day on September 22nd, Kevin and Sandor return to their intensive roots once more. Between Kastning’s 12-string extended and 12-string alto guitars along with Szabo’s classical and 16-string guitar, you can never tell who is going to roll the dice and take a turn to decide who will win the race.

There are 14 pieces on this album that Kevin and Sandor composed from scratch. They wanted to extend the wider arrangements that go beyond the classical, experimental, neo-classical, and flamenco realms. But adding a little twist of lemon, you can never tell what the duo would think of next.

Adding the tension by creating these dangerous puzzle maps for the listener to walk through step by step, there are times that they combined the elements of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lubos Fiser, Zdenek Liska, Gyorgy Ligeti, King Crimson, and Ottmar Liebert rolled into one. And some of these compositions can make you walk through the paintings of Jackson Pollock or walk through these spiral staircases that can take you into unknown locations.

Nograd is really a big challenge for me. And I always like to see bands and artists like Kevin
Kastning always taking those risks by pushing the envelope even more. Now it’s been five years since hearing his album Otherworld back in 2015, again as I’ve mentioned earlier, Kastning has never, ever disappointed me. And now it is time to pull both the curtains back and explore the world of Kevin Kastning and Sandor Szabo’s Nograd."

-- Music from the Other Side of the Room (US)
   May 2020

Kevin Kastning / Sandor Szábó — Nógrád

(Greydisc GDR3554, 2009/2020, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-02-19

"This international duo of guitar explorers offer here a collection of fourteen compositions that they recorded on September 22, 2009 in Nógrád, Hungary. By my count, Nógrád is their twelfth album together (and yes I’m counting a few they did with Balász Major as well), although at the time, circa Parallel Crossings or Parabola, they had only recorded together a couple times previously, and the recordings at hand sat unreleased for many years, yet the result shares the same excellence as anything else they recorded together previously or since. As I have mentioned in numerous reviews over the years, both Kastning and Szábó play an array of custom-made guitars, some with up to 36 strings and two necks, but on this recording Kastning plays only the 12-string baritone and 12-string alto guitars, and Szábó plays only the 16-string classical, providing a semblance of sonic uniformity across all the tracks, yet it's an otherworldly character that is completely unique, informed by classical, jazz and traditional styles, but not really belonging to any of those, instead remaining well on the outside, guided by the sounds of their exotic instruments. Each of the compositions wanders down different paths through a forest of possibilities, rarely repeating and always moving forward to something new, something previously unheard, and yes, these could be fully or partly improvised, but my ears don’t believe so, as the two players approach each piece like methodical, well planned clockwork with all the parts fitting together perfectly. And this descriptive could easily apply to any of those other eleven recordings recorded by the duo before or since. There is plenty here in these fourteen cuts to satisfy the explorative listener looking for something unique."

-- Exposé Magazine (US)
   February 2020

Kevin Kastning and Sandor Szábó: Nógrád

Recorded on 22nd September 2009, this features Kevin Kastning (12-string extended baritone guitar, 12-string alto guitar) together with Sándor Szabó (Classical guitar, 16-string guitar). During their 2009 European Tour, Kastning and Sándor allowed for recording sessions between some of the dates, and they decided to record in an old church in the small village of Nógrád, Hungary. The first day would be sessions for a duet album, and the second day would be with percussionist Balázs Major. While that album was released in 2010 as ‘Triptych’, for some reason the duet recordings have never been utilised until now. These days many people, myself included, think of Kevin as mastering instruments with many more strings than “just” 12, but some 11 years ago he had yet to make that musical leap, and it is interesting to hear just where we was as a performer back then.

He feels it is an accurate presentation of how the work he and Sándor were performing at the time, and certainly for my ears it is incredibly compelling. Here we have two master acoustic guitarist bouncing ideas off each other, seeing where the music takes them, taking it in turns to support each other. It is a journey which is timeless, stretching back through the ages with two masters of their craft pushing each other to see where the journey is going to lead. Improvised yet considered, here they take classical themes and push them into new directions, creating something which is compelling, interesting, and invigorating. This is music which needs to have full attention paid to it so it does not disappear into the background, but instead is allowed to command attention so the listener can “see” them working the ideas, repeating themes and always reaching forward. Fan of classical guitar music as well as the likes of Robert Fripp, will undoubtedly get a great deal from this.

Rating: 8/10

-- House of Prog Radio/Magazine (New Zealand)
  July 2020