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Waters In Azure
Steffen Basho-Junghans
Strange Attractors Audio House
05 Feb 2002
Waters I:  mp3

Bill Tilland says:
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.

On 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.

Even 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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