Skyfields: Reviews and Quotes
Kevin Kastning - Skyfields (Progression, issue 69)
"On the newest offing, guitarist/inventor Kevin Kastning developed his abstractionist canvases into what essentially is a five-movement symphony.
Let's talk a little about Kastning's axes: in addition to traditional classical guitar, Kevin swings a double-neck Contraguitar (18 strings per neck in double-course octaves), 30-string Contra-Alto guitar, 15-string Extended classical guitar, double-course Alto guitar (tuned ADGCEA), plus 17- and 16-string Contraguitars. Phew! On Skyfields, he limits himself to the 36-string doubleneck and the 15-string classical.
Someone in the Kastning household, if not Kastning himself, was a rabid Morton Feldman groupie. His spare, unhurried, fragmentary atonal phrasing, pregnant reticences and frequently spooky instances of exquisitely calculated relationships between adjacent sonorities make him a dead-ringer for the late neo-modernist.
This lush, full-spectrum recording, tastefully awash in auditorium reverb, would have been right at home on those mid-'80s Windham Hill Ackerman, Hedges, and de Grassi sides. The question is, can Kastning's rather static style sustain an hour-plus exercise? On a high-end system, absolutely."
-- Progression Magazine (US)
Kastning; Kevin: Skyfields
"Through the Greydisc label, guitarist Kevin Kastning has now released over twenty albums and yet while I call him a guitarist, on his latest album, Skyfields, you may not even recognise what he does as guitar. Rather than the six, or even twelve string variety, what Kastning utilises on this solo outing is 15 string extended classical guitar and 36 string double contraguitar. If you've never seen either, then I suggest you seek them out as they are imposingly large, beautiful instruments. In many ways that's also an apt description of the music they, or more correctly, Kastning creates, the acoustic instruments used in flowing manner across the five part "Skyfields" suite. Instrumental in practice, there's still a lyrical ethos to the pensive, precise flavours that fill an inky void with sparkles and pin-pricks of unexpected colour, and yet in most cases the results feel almost downcast in nature. This isn't depressive, or depressing music, but then neither is there much of a smile raised and certainly never a playful jape revealed.
Across the hour's worth of plucked sound you are taken on a journey that mimics the forming and dissolving of clouds and while Kastning never promotes the theory that Skyfields is conceptual, it's quite easy to form that conclusion. Add in that the stark, lonesome setting allows the picked out notes to need no counterpart to convey their message and the more obvious melodies and flow you may expect from a 'guitar album' simply never appear. Instead you're left hanging on the space between the notes almost as much as you are the path they create. It's intense stuff and impossible not to admire. Yet as someone who spends much more of their time in the world of more conventional songs, it can often feel as if there's simply not very much going on.
Skyfields is an album for those willing to venture to the edges of what most
consider to be the soundscapes they'd relax to (relaxing never seems to be on
the agenda of this album, even if it is sedate in pace). If that is a place you
like your musical tastes to reside, I suggest you take a trip on what Kevin
Kastning has created here. Everyone else however may simply wonder why there's
so little to grasp on to as they hunt for almost intentionally concealed
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Sea of Tranquility Magazine (US)
Kevin Kastning: Skyfields
"Kevin Kastning has made mainly
duo and trio recordings so far in his career. He released his first solo album,
Otherworld, last year. The album was accepted appreciatively by the
audience and the guitar world. We did not have to wait long for the next solo
album because in the beginning of 2016, Skyfields was released.
This album is very different in its conception from the previous solo album Otherworld. The little more than one hour long album contains only five, but long, compositions. It is in fact one composition in five parts.
In this album, Kevin shows his elegant virtuosity which is not about the speed of the played notes but about the way how he can rule the instruments during playing even when he plays lyrical and contemplative parts leaving a lot of silence. The album is realized in the possible highest professionalism, both in interpretation and sound quality.
This CD is special in many aspects: the special guitars, the special tunings he used, and the music; how he formulated his musical thoughts altogether makes this album very valuable."
Hangzasvilag Magazine (HUNGARY)
Kevin Kastning: Skyfields
"Guitarist Kevin Kastning has released 22 albums featuring him paired with a range of musical collaborators. The 2016 CD release of Skyfields is Kevin's second solo album, following the 2015 release of Otherworld. Kastning is clearly a pioneer of 21st century classical music. Not only that, but Kastning, the guitar architect recorded his latest album with his world renowned 36 string guitar—an instrument that has inspired a new repertoire of 21st century music. Speaking to mwe3.com about the differences between his two latest solo albums, Kevin Kastning explains, “I think Skyfields is indeed different from Otherworld in both sound and scope. I did intend for them to be different; I didn't want to release an album that was essentially "Otherworld 2." Otherworld consists of 16 tracks which are not directly related compositionally or thematically, but rather connected by mood and atmosphere. I had been thinking about longer solo pieces divided into movements, like a symphony. The original plan was for four movements totaling around 40 - 45 minutes. But compositions and improvisations can take on a life of their own between conception and completion. By the time it was complete, it was five movements and 63 minutes.” For music fans who enjoyed Kastning’s Otherworld CD as well as his music releases with Carl Clements, Michael Manring, Sandor Szabo, Mark Wingfield and more, Skyfields will be another valuable listening experience. For these listeners unfamiliar with or even challenged by Kastning’s 36 string guitar experimentation, give Skyfields a good hearing, you won’t be disappointed. All the great guitarists of the 20th century have challenged their audiences during various times and currently, Kevin Kastning is one of the most thought-provoking 20th century guitarists recording new music in the 21st century."
Music Web Express 3000 magazine (US)
Kevin Kastning: Skyfields
"If Skyfields invites comparison to any other Kevin Kastning recording, it's neither the two immediately preceding it, A Far Reflection (with woodwinds player Carl Clements) and Eleven Rooms (with guitarist Mark Wingfield), nor Otherworld, the first Kastning album to feature him playing alone. No, the one to which the closest connection might be drawn is Dark Sonatas, not for reasons of instrumentation (the Elliott Carter-inspired recording was Kastning's third collaboration with Wingfield) but for tone. Consistent with comments by Kastning himself, Skyfields' harmonic palette is generally darker than that of his other releases, and the material on the recording, his twenty-second for Greydisc Records, is often ponderous and liberally sprinkled with empty space.
A few other details about the recording deserve mention. Whereas the typical Kastning recording features a generous collection of unrelated individual pieces, Skyfields was conceived as a five-part work and is thus, in essence, a sixty-three-minute single composition. It's also noteworthy that the recording was executed in a single take, Kastning resisting the urge to redo certain parts and favouring instead the warts-and-all authenticity of the initial run-through. Interesting too is that while the instruments used on the recording, the 36-string Double Contraguitar and 15-string Extended Classical guitar, have been wielded by Kastning before, all but one of the piece's five parts were performed using the 36-string instrument.
As mentioned, it's Skyfields' darker tonal palette that gives the recording its greatest distinguishing character. An almost forlorn mood establishes itself during the opening part as the guitarist voices the thematic material at the outset before exploring the related pathways extending naturally out of it. Yet no matter how far such explorations take Kastning away from the material's beginnings, the dark tone remains in place and the grounding themes never far away either. Harmonic structures and motifs appear and then re-appear in slightly different guise, episodes mutate between soft and loud, slow passages are followed by rapid flurries, and Kastning moves seamlessly between single-line statements, finger-picking, strums, and chiming chords. A little bit of extra air enters into the third part when the 15-string guitar is used without betraying the overall spacious spirit of the project in the process.
As the recording advances, the listener comes to feel as if he/she is being granted access to the real-time thought processes and decision-making of Kastning as he executes the material live, and in eschewing the song structure conventions associated with a short piece, Skyfields, more so perhaps than any of his other recent recordings, assumes the character of a meditation."
-- Textura Magazine (CANADA)
KEVIN KASTNING –
"For over an hour in five movements, outside-mannerist guitarist Kevin Kastning, in the latest of a prolific output (this is his 22nd CD involvement with Greydisc, solo and in duet/trio aggregates), singly explores a lone thematic subject only to mind, instruments, and what results from such interplay, “accidental” progressions successively providing fodder for ongoing extrapolations. Skyfields is not a planned composed work, little of the guitarist’s ventures ever is - even when a small degree of pre-sketching is involved, it’s minimal: gestures, nods, and indications as ghostly architecture - but rather an exposition of raw in-the-moment creativity fusing a long history of explorations extending a never-ending canvas. Kastning, in other words, is interacting with himself in fusion meditations incorporating the echoes of Cage, Towner, Roualt, Metheny at his most evanescent, the dark recesses of Klee married with Piranesi’s remarkably ruins, and so on. As has been noted, music is a matter of sculpting the air or of painting with it. This, however, puts new limns on the old horse.
The composer's musics are always deeply moody but never nihilistic, threnody minus the sort of existential angst which prompted Sartre to pen Nausea (the touchstone of the philosophy). Kastning is a wanderer in the world, simultaneous artist-voyeur and sono-graphic illumineer in a realm depopulated of the bipedal presence, indeed of all limbed movable sentience, given over to Nature in her vegetal arbors, lowering skies, austere vistas. Behind it all, though, lurks a deathless entelechy intimately involved in necessarily entropistic work, beauty of another order, an aesthetic beyond human concerns, surpassing organic sentimentality, the artist watching the watcher watching the mystery.
Relying for some time solely on self-invented many-stringed guitars (up to 36!, and if anyone's ever going to go to 50 or beyond, it’ll be him), a generous presence of echo, resonance, and ringing overtones only deepens the entire organo-sidereal fusion. One sees the celestial firmament in very terrene environments, hence the title, feet firmly planted while the listener is bathed in a surrounding ether, waves of muted light slowly and languidly descending and then arising like a borealis, never impinging, never adamant, never intrusive, just always there."
-- Veritas Vampirus
April 2016 (US)
KEVIN KASTNING - SKYFIELDS
(2016, cd, usa, greydisc gdr3530)
"Composer and guitar player Kevin Kastning has just released Skyfields. On this brand-new release, Kevin presents 5 pieces, Skyfields I up to Skyfields V.
The compositions are performed on a 36-string double Contraguitar and on a 15-string extended classical guitar.
The result is astonishing. Solo guitar soundscapes but with an enormous range and depth. An exploration of sounds.
This is nice. Very nice."
April 2016 (HOLLAND)
Kevin Kastning — Skyfields
(Greydisc GDR3530, 2016, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2016-03-26
"There is no one quite like Kevin Kastning. Stretching back well over 20 years and two dozen or more releases, both solo and in collaboration with other like-minded players, the guitarist, composer and instrument inventor has established and developed a unique sound that can at once be identified as his own, but could never be called predictable. Every measure has its own new horizon, its own vocabulary, and could take off in just about any direction. On Skyfields, his approach is entirely solo and unaffected (with the exception of plenty of studio reverb enhancement), played exclusively on his 15-string extended classical guitar and double-neck 36-string Contraguitar. One needs to see these instruments to appreciate their sound, which is easily accomplished with a visit to his website, stopping at the ‘instruments’ page and then the ‘listen’ page; indeed, Kastning lives in a musical world of his own creation, like no other. For Skyfields, some passages may occasionally remind of Pat Metheny’s early work, John Abercrombie’s Characters, or even Steve Tibbets’ Northern Song (without the drums), but those are just brief anecdotal comparisons that gauge the effect on the listener and nothing more, although I believe Kastning’s vision is a similar one, hovering somewhere between jazz, classical, ambient and avant-garde. The 62+ minute title track, broken into five long parts, comprises the entire disc, and is (as always on any of Kastning’s work) completely instrumental. There are few repeating phrases, no steady rhythms, but plenty of rich tonal colors, harmonics, and open atmospheres. While one might dismiss this as self-indulgent noodling on a casual first listen, there’s plenty of emotion, clarity and brilliance here to reward the listener with patience and perseverance."
April 2016 (US)
KEVIN KASTNING/Skyfields: "Feeling in an anti-social mood, Kastning ditches the duo format this time around since he figures he has more than enough strings on his variously strung guitars to keep him company. Forgoing pyrotechnics, this is Kastning's personal album loaded with solo, impressionistic playing that's as heavy on the white space as it is on the vibrations. Very much a Sunday recital kind of set, Kastning continues to amaze anytime he picks up one of his custom made axes. Well done but left of center."
"I made soup while listening to Kevin Kastning playing solo on
his new "Skyfields." A perfect night. Kastning has more strings on his
guitar than I have ingredients in this soup. He owns a theorbo. Soup and deep
contemplation are my Skyfields experience.
Kevin Kastning plays a multi-stringed, two-necked guitar with a range closer to a piano than a six-string. He improvises in a classical mode without the repetition that defines folk/blues/rock/pop. He is searching and finding and discarding all in a rich emotional wilderness. You will need to open up and follow along even when you think you know a better path. Cook something in this waking dream state. It will taste like your inner life. The manager at my new apartment stopped me in the hall to say, "Are you cooking? It is strong, whatever it is. I could smell it all night."
Skyfields is an intensely quiet album.
Kevin Kastning plays a multi-stringed, two-necked guitar with a range closer to a piano than a six-string. He improvises in a classical mode without the repetition that defines folk/blues/rock/pop. He is searching and finding and discarding all in a rich emotional wilderness. You will need to open up and follow along even when you think you know a better path. Cook something in this waking dream state. It will taste like your inner life."
-- Billy's Bunker (US)
KEVIN KASTNING – Skyfields
Spontaneous disturbance of inner peace as a way to look beyond the clouds.
"No man’s land is where Kevin Kastning’s imagination is always headed to roam, and it’s this spiritual place’s uncertainty that makes his trips so riveting. The American artist’s second solo album in almost three decades, “Skyfields” – a follow-up to 2015’s "Otherworld" – won’t be lost among his couple of dozen records as it may be KK’s most “in the moment” work: laid down live in the studio with no overdubs and no treatment of original sonics. With Laotzi’s quote “Change it, and you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it” as the only rule to drive them, the five epic parts of a titular suite exist rather ephemerally, and what could seem abstract isn’t formless in such circumstances.
It’s the entire picture – rendered rich by use of 36-string Double Contraguitar and 15-string Extended Classical – that matters here, pregnant pauses creating tension in the exotic pseudo-patterns in “Skyfields I” before broken baroque pieces are revealed, and “Skyfields II” is picking up this fragility in a suspended filigree fashion, translucent and full of promise. And the promise is fulfilled on “Skyfields III” with an unhurried yet delicate, tender even, procession of dewdrop notes, while “Skyfields IV” – the shortest cut on display – is sparsely serious as if it was anticipating a storm. And “Skyfields V” is the storm – seen from the eye of the hurricane, as smithereens of a dream spin around in slow motion.
Still, the overall impression is one of vapor trails being observed – not toxic yet intoxicating. These skyfields are ready for reaping."
it Rock webzine (CANADA)
"A stunning disk of awesome beauty. I was pulled in from the very first note."
"Skyfields may be my favorite of your albums."
-- Mike Metheny (US)
"I’ve just finished listening to the entire of Skyfields. Bravo my friend, this is a great piece of work. As a whole the pieces work together very much like movements of a classical work. Every piece works completely for me and overall it’s a tremendously strong album. I do think of it very much as a single work with separate movements, it just sounds like that to me and I know you meant it to be like that. It’s a very strong piece. Fantastic work."
-- Mark Wingfield (UK)
©2016 Greydisc Records, Suigeneria Music [BMI]