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Steffen Basho-Junghans - In the Morning Twilight

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Artist: Steffen Basho-Junghans

Album: In the Morning Twilight

Label: Kning Disk

Review date: May. 18, 2006

So far, the stars just haven't lined up right for Steffen Basho-Junghans. Or perhaps his lack of recognition is down to circumstances.

Maybe it's because the Berlin resident is the most challenging of the current cohort of Takoma-influenced steel-string acoustic guitarists. Maybe people get the wrong idea from his hyphenated surname; he might honor Robbie Basho, but he doesn't merely copy him. Maybe it's because he lives in Europe, which deprives him of imported-beer novelty status over there and makes a trip over here a costly undertaking for a guy who has no deep-pocketed sponsors.

Or maybe it's because an album as brilliant as In the Morning Twilight comes out in a pressing of 265 on a Swedish micro-label you've probably never heard of unless you're a passionate follower of Folke Rabe's career; you want to bet that's how many promos of Leo Kottke's next album get lost in the mail?

Enough grumbling – there's a record at hand worth toasting. Basho-Junghans never resorts to overdubs, but unlike his other records, this one was recorded before an audience. They're so quiet that the creak of an ill-oiled door, a glass sliding across a table, and the whoosh of cars passing outside the venue insinuate themselves into the music, not to distract, but to lend a very specific sense of the moment in which it was played. The lively acoustics of Göteborg, Sweden's Hagateatern add to that sensation; the echoes that result from Basho-Junghans' string-slapping on “(Excerpt) from Books (I-II)” let you know that these six pieces happened somewhere, whereas the spiffy recording of Basho-Junghans' studio discs makes it seem like there's nothing in the world but his guitar. Several pieces will be familiar to you if you have his records Books and Waters, but they feel different in this setting. The guitarist transitions effortlessly between the cascading glissandos of such more experimental efforts and straighter melodies like “Charlette” and “Last Days of the Dragon,” making it clear that while the guy refuses to be pinned down to a single way of playing, he isn't a style-hopper. Rather, the contrast between singing themes, stark harmonics, and hallucinatory slide excursions are all aspects of a total concept. Basho-Junghans aims to transport the listener somewhere else every time he picks up his guitar. Every time I put on this lovely disc I wish I had been in Sweden last year at the end of July.

By Bill Meyer

Other Reviews of Steffen Basho-Junghans

Waters in Azure

7 Books

Rivers And Bridges

Unknown Music II: Transwarp Meditation


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Find out more about Kning Disk

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