Exposé Online banner

Kevin Kastning / Sándor Szabó / Balász Major — Triptych
(Greydisc GDR 3509, 2011, CD)

Kevin Kastning / Sándor Szabó / Balász Major — Becoming
(Greydisc GDR 3514, 2013, CD)

by Paul Hightower, 2013-10-25:

Triptych Cover artBecoming Cover art

For their fifth album, Triptych, guitarists Kevin Kastning (USA) and Sándor Szabó (Hungary) are joined by Hungarian percussionist Balázs Major. As one might expect this is a very acoustic affair, the three musicians assembled in a Hungarian cathedral to perform a dozen tracks that convey a variety of moods and impressions. The music sometimes swings, as in “Harangok,” and then there are moments when the interlocking strings evoke the Crafty school, perhaps best seen in “Kaszama.” The textures and resonances are often unusual, due to the unique choice of instruments. Kastning favors a 12-string baritone guitar of his own creation, as well as a 12-string alto guitar, while Szabó plays a 16-string guitar as well as traditional classical guitar. Major sits between them in the aural picture, employing a panoply of percussion including cymbals and clay pots, plus assorted folk and ethnic hand drums. Some might label this experimental music, but to me the trio are tapping into something much more primal and spiritually ancient. There are traces of exotic modalities in several tracks, while elsewhere you get the sense that no script is being followed, just the musicians’ quest to channel something beyond musical performance. The material feels scripted at times, though I sense there’s also a healthy degree of improvisation being employed. The lines often blur, with the results equally intriguing and mystifying. For fans of modern or experimental acoustic guitar music this album would seem a no-brainer, though its appeal extends to all seekers of the within.


by Jon Davis, 2013-05-13:

In all the music I've heard from Kevin Kastning (both with and without his frequent collaborator Sándor Szabó), one thing that has not been present is any kind of percussion. They've used a wide variety of instruments, mostly stringed, and Kastning has also worked with woodwinds, but no percussion. So when Triptych crossed my desk, I was hopeful — maybe the energy level would notch up a bit. The meditative moods in the previous releases were quite pleasant, but it seemed like propulsion was something I could use for a change. I also looked forward to some tones in the lower frequency ranges. Acoustic guitars, even those in the baritone range, have some lovely resonances, but there's never anything down in the frequencies you'll feel in your chest. The good news is that some of my hopes are realized in these two collaborations with percussionist Balász Major; the bad news is that some weren't. Triptych starts with the three-part title suite, and in the first, the percussion consists entirely of cymbals backing the two acoustic guitars. Part two adds what sounds like a ghatam (clay pot), which provides a nice pulse but stays entirely in the upper frequency register. Part three returns to cymbals. It's not until track 8 that we hear something new. The entire album was recorded in a single day, so I'll assume it's largely improvised, though as is typical with Kastning/Szabó releases, the degree of coordination is high. No chaos here, just beautiful unconventional sounds. There seem to be some sections the two guitarists have worked out in advance, at least in rough form.

Becoming reunites the trio for another set, and this time the sonic palette is expanded a bit, with all three musicians increasing the number of instruments played. Kastning adds piano to his array of custom guitars; Szabó contributes Chinese guzheng; Major expands his percussion arsenal a bit as well. The guzheng in particular brings a welcome change to the sound; the piano is used so little as to be invisible. But the main difference seems to be more down to the players' moods than the instrumentation. They seem to have been in a more playful, energetic mood than in the earlier outing. The set's shortest track, "A Doubled Reflecting," is a good example: 1:11 of eighth notes ricocheting between the guitars backed by driving cymbals and ghatam. I'm presuming Major has developed a technique that allows him to play cymbals with a stick in one hand while playing the pot with the other. These recordings of acoustic stringed instruments combined with percussion from around the world remind me at times of Oregon's early outings, though the sound is really like nothing else. Becoming would be my recommendation for a new listener's starting point into the unique world of Kastning and company.


Filed under: New releases , 2011 releases, 2013 releases

Related artist(s): Kevin Kastning, Sándor Szabó, Balász Major

More info

Latest news

2021-04-01
New Aristocrats Live Album on the Way – No foolin'! These supreme musicians toured Europe early in 2020, just before touring ceased to be a thing musicians could do, and there were some hot performances captured. On May 7, some of these will be releases as Freeze! Live in Europe 2020. » Read more

2021-03-25
Return of Jerry Lucky's Progressive Rock Files – After much consideration and surprisingly, positive feedback, Jerry Lucky is announcing the launch of the progressive Rock Files podcast, featuring the latest progressive rock music from around the world. » Read more

2021-03-14
Jewlia Eisenberg RIP – The sad news has come out that Jewlia Eisenberg has died. As a founding member of Charming Hostess, Eisenberg changed the face of music, bringing together Balkan klezmer, American folk, and experimental rock in a distinctive blend that garnered much praise. » Read more

2021-03-11
RIP Roger Trigaux – The sad news has come to our attention that Roger Trigaux, the guiding force of Present and former member of Univers Zero, passed away on the evening of March 10, 2021 after a long ilness. » Read more

2021-02-14
SoundQuest Fest 2021 – SoundQuest Fest, first experienced as a live festival in Tucson Arizona in 2010 was created by ambient music pioneer Steve Roach. This 2021 event will unite a worldwide gathering of artists and audience members together for a 3-day online event unique in the realm of ambient music. From March 26-28th a continuous flow of streamed performances, audio-video wonder worlds and deep immersion zones will burn bright on Roach’s YouTube channel. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Martin Gordon - God's on His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back) – Now that bassist Martin Gordon has established himself across two creditable solo records together with a crackshot band that suits his clever muse, it’s clear that he has some more pop rock damage...  (2006) » Read more

Iona - The Circling Hour – It’s been six years since Iona’s last album, Open Sky, and the good news is that everything the Anglo-Irish band had working so well for them hasn’t been forgotten. Some might even...  (2008) » Read more

Landberk - Unaffected – A rendition of Van der Graaf Generator's "Afterwards" opens this concert disc recorded at the beginning of the year in Italy and Germany. This CD also constitutes the very first issue of...  (1995) » Read more

Alan Davey - Captured Rotation – Alan Davey has been a key member of Hawkwind for quite some time, playing bass, synthesizers, and writing the occasional song ("Wings" from their 1990 album Space Bandits is a standout). Now...  (1997) » Read more

Nathan Mahl - The Clever Use of Shadows – From what we’re led to believe, Parallel Eccentricities was only a small part of the Nathan Mahl story, one that spans 20 years and includes two parts of a trilogy that this new CD was...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues