Steffen Basho-Junghans - "Rivers And Bridges"
(Strange Attactors Audio House 2003, SAAH010)
From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)
Iíve always felt the music of Steffan Basho-Junghans is about journeys. Itís restless music, always drawing you onward to new vistas. His latest solo acoustic 6 and 12 string guitar effort, Rivers and Bridges, is no different. This time, Basho-Junghans takes the listener on a rural journey, through an endless countryside, down the shores of winding rivers, across lonely bridges. There is a bit of a departure this time, though. The music on Rivers and Bridges is less experimental than on his previous works. Basho-Junghans delves into the traditions of his instrument here. But donít let that lead you to believe that it is played with any less integrity or passion. And just because itís not as experimental, doesnít mean itís any less exploratory.
This is especially so on the longer pieces on the album such as the 22-minute River Suite, which takes its winding journey through an ancient landscape, seemingly picking up local influences and folk traditions as it passes by, evolving, changing melodically and rhythmically, filled with the motion of the water, sometimes rushing, other times languidly flowing, as autumn leaves fall on its placid surface. And although Basho-Junghans is German, there is something undeniably American about the music, which is not surprising, since his biggest inspirations came originally from artists such as John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and of course, Robbie Basho, who all recorded on the American label Takoma Records. So Basho-Junghans pays tribute that label on the dazzling, 17Ĺ-minute Takhoma Bridge Incident, by evoking a sense of the groundbreaking achievements of those who came before him. But intriguingly, he also makes his own innovative achievement by drawing on his early training as an engineer. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a mighty suspension bridge that collapsed in 1940, and is still regarded today as a classic lesson in structural engineering. Both the complexity of Basho-Junghansí finger picking, and the strength of the structure of this piece echo the mighty expanse of the suspension bridge, while also hinting at its fallibility.
The shorter pieces fair just as well, each evoking their own mood and environment, from the pastoral expanse of Autumn II, to the harsher cry of Hear the Winds Coming, to the sweet melody of Rainbow Dance. Epilogue ends the album and the journey on the most traditional note of all, yet leaves the listener ready to start at the beginning once again. What is remarkable about all of these pieces, short and long, is that Basho-Junghans records them live to tape, with no overdubs. This is pure, organic, beautiful acoustic music, played with grace and reverence by a true modern master.
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Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald