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

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more

2017-01-27
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more

2017-01-26
Butch Trucks RIP – Butch Trucks was one of two drummers in the first incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, helping the band achieve its legendary status as an American original. He died on January 24, 2017 of a self-inflicted gunshot would. He was 69. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

ScienceNV - Pacific Circumstances – This is the second release by this San Francisco based quartet, their odd name coming from the fact that all four members are trained and working scientists, although that most certainly doesn't...  (2011) » Read more

Höstsonaten - Winterthrough – I guess sometimes you just shouldn’t question the decisions of an artist. When Fabio Zuffanti decides to record a cycle of four symphonic progressive albums based on the seasons, you shouldn’t ask...  (2009) » Read more

Rocket Scientists - Earthbound & Brutal Architecture – I wouldn't call the first CD by the Rocket Scientists progressive. It is a collection of songs, predominantly vocal. There is a lot of talent here. RS is Eric Nordlander on keyboards and vocals,...  (1996) » Read more

Steve Walsh - Shadowman – After 30-some-odd years in the music business (if they’re lucky enough to last that long), most artists have fallen into a comfort zone and their new albums no longer offer any surprises. For...  (2006) » Read more

Tara Vanflower - My Little Fire-Filled Heart – Gothic preponderance in echoplex upon hallucinating a mystically morose escapade. Imagine being buried alive, serpent in one hand and a rainbow in the other, with corrugated air swishing through your...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues