Fractal Guitar 3 by Stephan Thelen

Release date: November 9, 2022
Label: MoonJune Records

Stephan Thelen never disappoints his listeners by taking the next logical step in his career. Whether it’s his work with Sonar, Fractal Sextet, or Music for Piano & Strings, he’s always looking ahead. Now continuing in the third installment of the Fractal Guitar series, it’s always great to see where Thelen would go next.

Very different from his previous collaborations, Fractal Guitar 3 is like a combination of the four albums that he’d done previously. Like adding enough pieces to the puzzle, Thelen would provide brainstorming ideas that would fall into place. And believe me, they really work well together.

Take the composition ‘Morning Star’, it’s based on the same polyrhythm form on Transneptunian Planets (‘Pluto’) and Fractal Sextet’s ‘5 against 7’. Listening to that track, you can tell that the arrangements on here are like circles, coming in full.

And adding the flowing textures that Thelen gives to his fellow comrades from Reuter, Durant, Huth, Gabay, and Walker, they walk into this crystalised structure of this castle, filled with gorgeous beauty, and surreal atmospheres that makes your heart beat like crazy.

But it’s the opening 16-minute track ‘Through the Starlight’ that’ll hurl you through the cosmos. From its droning sitar-like effect, it’ll make you want to dig out Steven Wilson’s 2008 solo debut, Insurgentes. The crew get down to business by going into this throttling, gut-punching attack.


Aarset’s orchestration, lits the fuse as each of the members make the jump to light-speed that’ll take you to this parallel universe, beyond our solar system. The quintet take turns in their improvisations, honouring the late, great Manuel Göttsching. But it’s Schwalm’s remix that make the temperature levels go up to 900 degrees, in Fahrenheit.

The bonus track which edits down from a 16, to a 9-minute piece, bringing everybody to the forefront. Gabay’s arrangements are like dangerous roads across the South American landscape. Facing hazards and never knowing what’s going to happen, the group put in all of their might and creating this big, giant push by reaching towards their final destination.

The ‘Glitch’ centres on another dangerous walk across the volcanic mountains as they manage to make it through the rocks very carefully. And take it, step by step. They know that they have each other’s back as the moments become a combination between David Bowie and Terry Riley, collaborating together.

On ‘Ascension’, Thelen lands his spaceship on Neptune’s dry land as he vies this beautiful ambient landscape by investigating its forms of icy rivers, and the cold breeze that approaches the scenery. With a militant beat on ‘Black on Electric Blue’, it gives Cleveland a chance to send Morse codes, to our home planet.

Speaking of the Morse code loophole, it returns to the forms of Ash Ra Tempel’s sole self-titled debut, with a middle-eastern texture as if Terje Rypdal and Hedvig Mollestad are handling the production mixes on the closing track by adding this chaotic effect to the round table.

There’s a lot of surprises, twists, and turns when it comes to the third instalment of the Fractal Guitar series. And for Thelen, he has done it again by breaking the rule book and pushing the envelope, as far as he can go.

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