Basho-Junghans' elegant Song
of the Earth, the first of his recordings to be released in North
America, established his reputation as a modal twelve-string
guitarist in the tradition of 1960s and 70s' twelve-string
heavyweights John Fahey, Leo Kotkke and in particular Robbie
"Basho" Robinson, the California folk guitarist whom Junghans
honoured by adopting his name. (Robinson, in turn, borrowed his
nom de plume from the 17th century Japanese haiku poetry master
Matsuo Basho.) However, recordings such as this one reveal
Basho-Junghans as much more than a simple imitator or linear
extension of his inspiration. It would be misleading to call the
earlier Basho a "primitive," but he was definitely a product of
the 1960's counterculture and had a strongly romantic sensibility.
As an East German coming of age shortly before the fall of the
Berlin Wall, Basho-Junghans emerged from quite a different
cultural and temporal matrix. Both musicians draw upon the
expected ethnic influences (East Indian ragas, English and
American folk, traditional Oriental music for stringed
instruments), but Basho-Junghans has his own sensibility and
awareness, which takes him well beyond open tunings and harmonics
and into minimalist drones and some decidedly strange effects not
normally associated with conventional guitar technique.
Waters in Azure, Basho-Junghans tries to represent different
characteristics of water ("Waters"), explores the "metaphysical"
qualities of rain ("Inside the Rain"), sets himself the task of
playing a three-part piece entirely with one finger of his left
hand ("One No. 1"), and bases a final, austere monochromatic
composition on impressions garnered from the contemplation of 20th
century painters Mark Rothko and Yves Klein. On "Waters,"
Basho-Junghans uses a bluesy slide technique on his 12-string,
producing a sinuous, swooping sound very much like moving water.
On "Inside the Rain," he uses a staccato attack and dampened
strings to produce a sound very much like falling rain. In fact,
several of the pieces on the CD utilize the percussive
possibilities of the guitar so skillfully that it almost seems as
if Basho-Junghans has a percussion accompanist.
though Basho-Junghans has an obvious penchant for experimentation
(also revealed on the slightly earlier Landscapes in Exile), his
music is neither self-indulgent nor merely clever - although it is
perhaps "intellectual" in the sense that Basho-Junghans is always
very clear about what he is doing. Experimentation never exists
for its own sake, but rather in the service of a higher purpose,
to be achieved (or at least mediated) through the use of hypnotic
patterns, harmonics and the resonance of wood and metal. On this
CD, Basho-Junghans does not resort to predictable, easy lyricism,
but his motivation and achievement go far beyond clinical avant
garde investigations of guitar textures and timbres, and into a
loosely defined but heartfelt spiritual dimension. In that sense,
the two guitar-playing Bashos' are definitely kindred spirits.
10 Dec 2002
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