Stephan Thelen’s mathematical visions in “World Dialogue” and “Fractal Guitar 2” on #neuguitars #blog
Stephan Thelen is an interesting musician and composer. He has his own persoanl ideas. He has a personal vision and he carries it out with quiet dedication. He had definitely impressed me with his “Fractal Guitar” (2019) and this year he returned with the evolution of the same project. “Fractal Guitar 2”. winning team does not change and therefore also in this second chapter of guitars translated into mathematics we find fabulous characters such as David Torn, Henry Kaiser, Markus Reuter, Jon Durant, Bill Walker, Chris Muir, Stefan Huth …
This is not an album, this is an all star of the alternative guitar, a reunion of excellent professionals. The risk? Not knowing how to manage them, stopping at the surface, at individual technical ability, not exploiting their full potential. A risk not taken for granted in the musical genre practiced by Thelen, an aesthetic self-satisfaction typical of the progressive-ambient genre that has often produced banal and cloying results. Why doesn’t “Fractal Guitar 2” take this risk? The reasons are different. First of all because, as I told you, Stephan Thelen has his ideas and expresses them with granitic consistency. The whole album shows a complex and articulated structure, a delicate architecture, so subtle and elegant as to seem non-existent, elegant and invisible. I could define “Fractal Guitar 2” as an elegant, smooth post-progressive chamber design element, where in each song Thelen uses the most suitable guitarists to achieve the effect he desires. Thelen is also a skilled improviser and I like his effective and complex way of managing improvisers like David Torn and Henry Kaiser within their compositional structures. I wonder if this too is a solution recovered from the mathematical structures of fractals or a way to introduce an element of novelty and unpredictability within an already defined compositional construction, an example of a composer who accepts an external intervention in order to provide a revitalizing element on his own terms.
I asked myself the same question for the album “World Dialogue” released in 2020 for RareNoise Records. I wanted to buy it even if there were no guitars here to better get an idea about the “composer” Stephan Thelen. “World Dialogue” is a different record, his compositional hand here is more evident and the structure shows a minimalistic form. Here the composer’s mathematical rationality is placed at the service of two string quartets and what musicians! The Kronos Quartet and Al Pari Quartet! Here I was able to feel another quality of Thelen: his ability to transport the listener on an emotional level, playing with ecstatic and anxious sensations. I had taken this characteristic for granted when listening to “Fractal Guitar 2”, but in “World Dialogue”, perhaps due to the lack of an element, the guitars, very emotional for me, this thing emerge in a clear and characteristic way. Two beautiful records. Two further confirmations of how music can take on immersive qualities. Get carried away, math has never been so fascinating.