Steffan Basho-Junghans - "Inside"
(Strange Attractors Audio House 2001, SAAH002)
From Aural Innovations #16 (June 2001)
I was biased going into this review. The blue cover and blue jewel case of this CD combines to create my favorite shade of blue. But although this is music played strictly on the acoustic guitar, it is not the blues.
Hailing from Berlin, Basho-Junghans explores a style of guitar similar to that of John Fahey or Peter Lang. His earliest inspiration was Leo Kottke. His mentor was Robbie Basho. I actually found it reminiscent of the minimalist, cyclical style of music that Phillip Glass or Steve Reich composes, at least on the first and last movements. The middle movement is something else altogether!
The music takes shape slowly, subtle variations being explored as it progresses. Basho-Junghans says that the concept of the all instrumental Inside was a metaphysical excursion, exploring the idea of "inside the outside." An excursion or journey is a fair description, as the music tends to pull the listener along dark roads that pass through otherworldly landscapes. The complexity is quite amazing considering the entire album was recorded in real-time, by a single musician with a single steel-string guitar.
It's gentle music, to be sure, nothing heavy or harsh here, but it's a restless kind of music, not the placid tranquility of new age. In fact, there is something almost alien going on here, not just in the notes themselves, but in-between them as well.
There's no doubt that Basho-Junghans is a subtlety-gifted guitarist, a technical wizard with a knack for knowing when it's right to play "wrong." I always remember a jam session I was part of as a teenager. Our keyboardist was classically trained. When I told him what I wanted to hear from the keyboard, he said, "But you can't do that, it's the wrong way to play." But it sounded cool. Basho-Junghans knows what sounds cool, and whether it's right or wrong, he plays it that way. Hence, just when you expect the music to turn right, it turns left, taking you inside the outside.
Inside is distributed by Strange Attractors Audio House. You can visit their web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Strange Attractors Audio House; PO Box 2827; Olympia, WA 98507.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald