Kastning/Wingfield, Kastning/Peyghambari, Kastning/Szabó/Major

Kastning/Wingfield, Kastning/Peyghambari, Kastning/Szabó/Major

Aug 19, 2021 0 By Marcello Nardi

Kevin Kastning, Mark Wingfield – Rubicon I (greydisc, 2021)

While Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield manipulate frequencies, layers of sounds and sonic meanings through the latest chapter of their collaboration entitled Rubicon I, a massive inquiry in abstract improvisation slowly emerges, a fertile ground for these two musicians to enact a multidimensional exploration of the depths of their collaboration. Two musicians so familiar each other with, creating worlds of intimate power via the only mean of free improvisation. 

The Massachussets-based Kevin Kastning has delved into exploring the sonic possibilities of several custom made instruments, which expand the current possibilities of acoustic guitars with a ludicrous range of registers and strings (up to 36!). He uses them to apply a range of techniques spanning from Pat Metheny‘s Picasso guitar chordal tapping to hand-breaking counterpoints. Not a surprise he studied with Metheny himself and performed with belugrass and folk influenced masters like Michael Manring and Alex De Grassi. He has developed through these experiences a unique playing and tonal frequencies that are either fed by acoustic bluegrass guitar, free improvisation and atonal classical music. British guitarist Mark Wingfield can’t ask more for eploiting his trademark unerringly mysterious soundscapes and odd guitar sounds and apply his guitar midi gimmicks.

The opening Event Horizon sees Kastning at a 15-string classical guitar developing sparse and casual lines that Wingfield eventually charges with a crescendo soundscape. The atonal phrases the American guitarist delivers are constantly challenging any idea of rhythm and tonal coherence, until he loves to sit on a easy and capturing three-notes motif at the five minutes and half mark. The fellow answers this with an amazing, shimmering soundscape that is pivotal to one of the most enthralling moments of the track ninety seconds later, when Kastning ponders over a joyful arpeggio that sounds like walking on the clouds.

Born from a session in 2018, Rubicon I, which is the first chapter of two, definitively shows how the two have developed through multiple records a unique sound of their own. Exchaning registers in Comoving Distance, Kastning places a folk riff on the background and concentrates on the lower register with harsh tapping while Wingfield counterpoints that with howling and raging reveries on the higher register of his electric guitar.

Each of the two holds such a diverse background of influences, that it’s hard to disguise which genre they mix their atonal improvisation baseline with: The Lensing sees Kastning at the piano, starting with a Romantic-imbued, yet atonal cadence, that occasionally turns into a nocturne. Few seconds before the fourth minute mark, piano seems to hint a tonal cadence that Wingfield aptly mimicks and turns into an obsessive lead guitar ride. It’s just a momentary trajectory the two cross, until few seconds later they found themselves playing with quieter volumes and then again exploding in sudden bursts. The last minute finale is again an amazing moment that seems to coalesce all the previous tension in the closing electrical soundscape.

Rubicon I is a multi-layered exploration of possible leanings between two artists, where the free improvisation language is often more the surface and the real deal is listening to the depths of semiological explorations Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield unveil in their music.

Kevin Kastning, Mark Wingfield

Rubicon I

1. Event Horizon
2. Comoving Distance
3. Dynamic Horizon
4. The Lensing
5. Loop Quantum
6. Particle Horizon

Kevin Kastning: Piano, 36-string Double Contraguitar, 17-string Hybrid Classical guitar,
15-string Extended Classical guitar

Mark Wingfield: Electric guitar, live electronics (software processing)


Kevin Kastning, Soheil Peyghambari – The First Realm (greydisc, 2021)

Since hearing recordings of Eric Dolphy when I was a child, I have always found bass clarinet to be one of my very favorite instruments -says Kevin Kastning in the liner notes of his first release with clarinetist Soheil Peyghambari as a duo. The Teheran-based reedist, known for an unique voice and for being member of the Iranian-cross-genre ensemble Quartet Dimished, seems a perfect fit to Kastning‘s varied spectrum of nuances in The First Realm. They embark in a challenge of timbres through multifaced improvisations, wandering across adimensional tonal worlds, embarking in a quest to bring back time to its baseline. 

The opening Sleep Memory Walking starts with a forebonding rubato theme that defies any tonal center with Kastning alone. That is an important cue to what’s happening later, when Peyghambari gently joins the counterpointing the sparse line played by Kastning. The guitarist explores the incredible range of his instruments -he plays a 36 and a 17 strings custom made guitar on this recording. Alternating tapping strings to harmonics, strong-attack or resonant chords, he creates a perfect juxtaposition to Peyghambari‘s rounded and swirling timbres.

In Perduring Toward Obisidian Transferal Kastning‘s harmonics and lower strings are inquisitively minimal, but Peyghambari adds even more meditative nuances with his prolonged pauses. Echoes of spectral music emerge in As Stranded Declination Tendrils, when Kastning superimposes dissont chords thus, eliciting gradual crescendo pitches by Peyghambari. It’s a mystery that there are not more players of this wonderous instrument. Soheil not only plays bass clarinet -praises Kastning; he seems to inhabit it. His approach to Bb clarinet is just as unique as his bass clarinet voice. I have not heard anyone rewrite the rules of clarinet as does Soheil. He seems to find new depths and layers in this instrument. 

A survey of the depths of lower register and intimate feelings, the feeling in The First Realm is meditative, yet never sinister. Getting rid of any limitation in terms of rhythm or harmony, Kastning and Payghambari feel themselves open to explore in unerring meditations.

Kevin Kastning & Soheil Peyghambari

The First Realm

1. Sleep memory walking 10:59
2. As stranded declination tendrils 10:13
3. Beside shadows calling forward 08:40
4. To fathom caliginous gesture 07:53
5. Perduring toward obsidian transferal 10:51

Kevin Kastning: 36-string Double
Contraguitar, 17-string Hybrid Extended
Classical guitar.
Soheil Peyghambari: Bass clarinet and Bb


Kevin Kastning, Sándor Szabó, Balázs Major – Ethereal IV (greydisc, 2021)


The fourth chapter of the Ethereal collaboration between guitarists Kevin Kastning and Sandor Szabó extends to the trio format with the percussionist Balázs Major and sticks to the same rule of the previous albums, to continuously change the mix of their music and explore new boundaries. As an example, the chpater three saw Kastning focused on piano and Szabó on orchestrations, while now the improvisatory element in live context is predominant. 

Focusing on predonimantly theme-less music, the music is inherited by a sense of stillness, with Kastning and Szabó findings themselves in amazing dialogues, like in Third Occurrence. Szabó places here and there a two notes motif that eventually fades in soundscapes or propels Kastning phrasing over and below the register of the other. But it’s Balázs Major the secret ingredient here, adding a continuous beating on the cymbals, creating a never-shifting framework for the rumblings of the two musicians. 

Sandor Szabó, who mainly plays acoustic guitar, dwells into electric realm playing a bariton electric and alternating abstract wanderings into atonal soloing, to small, jagged themes appearing here and there. That is the perfect fit for the minimal filling by Major‘s percussions and not surprisingly for the evocative atonal improvisation of Kastning. Whether the American guitarist tends to fill more actively the harmonic domain in the other environments, here shifts more often to a broken and rich of a myriad of ideas comping for the others.

Fourth Occurrence is a radical example of this playing, a track where almost nothing happens, but few Eastern-asia sounding sparse  pitches played by electric guitars and counterpointed by occasional harmonics and tapped chords, that only in the coda become more and more aggressive. Similarly the gong-like opening of Fifth Occurrence creates a ritual atmosphere of performative music, that eventually leaves more to the visual (virtually visual) element than the acoustic one. That contrasts with the more aggressive and thick dialogues in First Occurrence: Kastning and Szabó dialogue with a scarcity of notes, yet they are able to create a tension that leans over sudden explosions. Kastning is suddenly heard soloing on a single string, which is very unusual, while Szabó answers it with dobro-like sounds that adds intriguing and angular Eastern-music intervals. Yet everything is so gradual and focused on maintaining the same level of ebullient transience, that never ever happens.

Abstractness and minimalism are the thriving forces behind this trio that demands calmness and nerves, promising wait and rewarding the listener with an incredible meditation and insights over the improvisatory realm. 

Kevin Kastning, Sándor Szabó, Balázs Major

Ethereal IV

1. First Occurrence 08:35
2. Second Occurrence 09:34
3. Third Occurrence 09:33
4. Fourth Occurrence 07:16
5. Fifth Occurrence 07:28
6. Sixth Occurrence 05:20

Kevin Kastning: 30-string Contra-Alto guitar
Sandor Szabo: Electric guitars
Balazs Major: Percussion