Greydisc Records (label)
07 September 2004 (released)
28 October 2004
Bichromial probably isn't, in terms of what normally gets reviewed on music-news, exactly par for the courseâ€¦ To begin with, if you are someone that particularly appreciates convention, you should consider this one a challenge: Firstly, the lack of track titles may be a little baffling; secondly, the further absence of liner notes only adds to the sense of disorientation; thirdly, beyond the packaging we have the music which although intriguing, captivating and often exquisite, is unlikely to have the milkman whistling along.
The CD contains 18 through-composed tracks (or studies in open form if you prefer). The 18 studies (all composed by the duo) are brief, interweaving vignettes that allow both performers to illustrate their virtuosity perfectly, whether using 6-string acoustic guitars, or utilising the more sonorous earthiness of Kastning's acoustic baritone (â€˜earthiness' being a quality added to by the â€˜no-frills' stereo production ethic gives the record a pleasing organic sympathy).
Kastning states on his website (worth a look for the glorious â€˜images' page) that he believes artists to be â€˜directly influenced by their environment and surroundings'. This belief is well played out within Bichromial, where interspersing, slow, autumnal textures and spindly, complicated fretwork perfectly represent the melancholic ambience of the artists' resident Massachusetts landscape.
In spite of all this, however, Kastning, in his mix, has opted to split the respective guitar parts rather severely across stereo channels (hence the title?) â€“ put headphones on and you'll have Kastning sitting on your left shoulder and Siegfried comfortably balancing on your right. I would have preferred a more sensitive mix allowing the listener to enjoy a more realistic â€˜live' recreation, whereas what we have during some of the faster interactions or call/response sequences is a slightly uncomfortable see-saw effect â€“ that said, during the more densely textured sections of â€˜Open Form No. 5' for example, the stereo spread works quite nicely, I just recommend that you ditch the headphones for the album as a wholeâ€¦
Bichromial is perhaps difficult to understand (and arguably unsuccessful) if you're looking for immediacy, but if you hit the repeat button I challenge you to notice where it begins and ends, and therein lies the beauty of open form composition â€“ like a landscape, there are no recognizable patterns or repetitions, or in a musical sense, verses, choruses or motifs. In the place of musical regulation Kastning/Siegfried offer (through the format of a duet) texture upon texture, line upon line, shadow upon shadow, and in doing so have made music that is rather brilliant in it's use of metaphor, with the larger musical canvas of the overall work being offset by underpinning, intricate sketches that hold the larger picture together (kind of like the perfect landscape painting). Bichromial is a particularly lovely collection of work and a fine record for the onset of winter â€“ find some time and enjoy it.