Steffen Basho-Junghans

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Inside Review

by Thom Jurek

Inside is only the second recording acoustic guitarist Steffen Basho-Junghans has released in the United States (there were three in his native Germany that are all but unavailable at this time). His previous release, Song of the Earth, was a treatise on how the acoustic guitar can be used to represent the four elements in both composition and technical execution. Whatever new age connotations its title conjured were quickly dismissed upon first listen. Inside is a another dimension of the universe that was explored so melodically. In his liner notes, Byron Coley likens Basho-Junghans to only two other guitarists in terms of his individual approach to the instrument: his compositional and improvisational mentor, Robbie "Basho" Robinson, and Loren Mazzacane Connors. Coley's not comparing music, but merely the radical approaches to expression each man offered the instrument and therefore the world at large. Inside is a suite of five parts, all linked in harmonic aether to one another by Basho-Junghans' complex musical system. It is elemental, but this time it doesn't come from the earth. Whether melodic ideas are recognizable as such or they appear seemingly from nowhere, they are bits and pieces of space, pure and vibrational, that Junghans rolls from the depths of his vast, dark heart, to his fingers and off the strings into that same universe that bore him in its space. His tunings, pitches, and various picking and chording techniques are quite complex, but it makes no difference; the end result is a work of such haunting beauty, spectral grace, tonal complexities, and enlivening dissonances, that it does what all great music is supposed to do: transfer emotion without cheapening it. With Inside, Basho-Junghans proves three things. First, that he is a musical technician and theorist, as well as an honest spiritual seeker. Second, that theory that comes from the search, and in order to be valid as language, it must become an agent of the soul that desires to communicate. Finally, that the musician who practices these principles with discipline and integrity becomes an alchemist who possesses within the context of his instrumental expression, the ability to meld physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual worlds, and create a truly new sonic universe in the process. Inside is all this and much more that the limits of this language can convey. The first important guitar album of this century, one that reveals how truly expansive the possibilities for the instrument are.

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