Can the guitar be reinvented at this stage? Meaning: is it necessary to somehow re-contextualize that long-venerated instrument? It's a task that may well carry the Shakespearian canard, "may fortune favor the foolish". Many have tried; surely many have 'succeeded', at least on their own terms. Irrespective of genre: Derek Bailey, Elliott Sharp, Keith Rowe, Buckethead, Fred Frith, Robert Fripp, Sonny Sharrock, Carlos Alomar...undoubtedly this is but a short, off-the-cuff list, and others linger on the periphery who have done their best to mutilate their own string-driven things, shorn of exposure or the gift of notoriety.
Enter Burkhard Stangl. This Austrian nomad boasts a broad and itinerant CV: his Discogs page reads like a virtual who's-who of collaborations with just about every known name operating across the electroacoustic/free improv spectrum. As a fleet improviser and team player, employing him amongst his learned colleagues tends to be the ideal seasoning such recordings nearly mandate. And why? Stangl's approach to guitar seems to emanate from an almost intuitive grasp of what kind of machine the instrument truly is; rather than just a noisemaker, Stangl makes full use of its limitless capacity via methodologies that bend notes, stretch tones, and slot pages of ideas neatly into the context of the moment. Here, in the company of fellow stylistic polyglot Angelica Castello, Stangl positions his guitar between sound-states that, though firmly in the EAI zone, wrap around both utterly delicious, melodic motifs, and episodes of pure tonal abstraction. He also plays some downright low-key, bangin' piano chords, in measures both baroque & gothic that are positively Bartok-ian. Castello's own arsenal of abject sonic weaponry (paetzold, recorders, tapes, cello, viola, and various electronics) is as equally galvanizing. The two mesh so completely that the entire recording is one of those rare jewels: an electroacoustic improv outing that sounds (almost) composed. Simply too much thought and process appears to have gone into the actualization of these seven works for them to have been birthed as instantaneous output. Or are they? If so, the telepathic conduit between Stangl and Castello is nothing short of super-attenuated, superhuman.
And as if to put a fine point on it all, Chesterfield establish a definitive mood, something usually peculiar to the genre, a dark, if cerebral, blanketing of the senses. Consuelo doesn't look to truck in well-trodden 'squeaky improv' benchmarks, random sounds piled atop one another like so much cordwood. There is a determined causation hereabouts, a desire to impart a somewhat filmic quality on a carefully chosen variety of spikes, thrums, faux 'techno', and many other twilit hues. Such a feat of aural engineering marks Consuelo as one of the finer EAI productions of this past year or any other.
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