Thelen describes the making of the album in these terms: “The making of this album, the successor to the first Fractal Guitar album, has been quite an adventure during quite a unique time in history. The journey started (although I didn’t know it at the time) on November 2, 2019 in Oakland, California, when Henry, Chris, Andy and I were recording tracks at MegaSonic studio. When I returned to Zürich, the world as we knew it soon changed drastically due to the quickly spreading Coronavirus. While it was a time to rethink the values that had governed our lives, it was also (thanks to the wonders of the internet) a disguised opportunity to record an album in lockdown.”
With artists like Markus Reuter on touch guitar U8, and soundscapes, David Torn on electric guitar and live looping, Jon Durant, Henry Kaiser, Chris Muir and Bill Walker on electric guitar, lap steel, live looping, and feedback, Barry Cleveland on 6- and 12-string guitars and filtered guitar, Fabio Anile on keyboards. Stefan Huth on touch guitar AU8 (bass), Andy West on bass, Andi Pupato on percussion, Andy Brugger and Manuel Pasquinelli on drums, Stephan Thelen himself takes on the electric guitar, choppy organ, granular synth, and programming. It is a line-up worthy of rapt attention.
Thelen participated in the Guitar Craft Seminars with Robert Fripp and it shows. Add Markus Reuter, David Torn, and the others and you have the recipe for intelligent and intriguing music.
The music is more than ambient, the precise rhythms, the discernible melodies, and the incredible harmonics make this an album to be heard and heard closely. This isn’t something to play in the background as you wash the cat.
The presence of Markus Reuter and David Torn is unmistakable and drummers Andy Brugger and Manuel Pasquinelli, with Andi Puppato’s percussion, make for fascinating rhythms. While the supporting guitarists lay down the cool soundscapes, Stephan Thelen himself works his wicked magic with guiitars and keyboards.
Cosmic Krautrock carries the exactitude of your daddy’s krautrock but the exploration and adventure of this company makes it cosmic. Fractal Guitar 2, the title track, features Walker on the lap steel and Durant on the fretless guitar. The idiosyncratic nature of those instruments adds great fascination and startling beauty to the piece.
Mercury Transit is one of the most rhythmically interesting pieces on the album and the keyboards and bowed guitar are of great interest. Thelen’s stratospheric guitar is brilliant. Then Ladder to the Stars gets a good bass line from Andy West and the undeniable Markus Reuter soundscapes set the stage for remarkable insertions from Thelen and the rest. Celestial Navigation is the apt description of the music. This is a work of art, for certain. It is harmonic, melodic, and completely mesmerizing. At least, it was for me.
The album closes with Point of Inflection. Stephan Thelen definitely leaves it all on the field with this one. His frenetic and fascinating guitar work over the fine rhythm section is infectious. The piece moves between raw and sophisticated and every avenue is well-explored.
Fractal guitar 2 is the brainchild of Stephan Thelen but the inimitable styles of Reuter and Torn and the others gives the discerning listener an opportunity to hear the influences of all these masters. It is certainly a mathematician’s album and the intricacy and beauty is intoxicating.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl