This might be a career best from German Takoma-ite Steffen Basho-Junghans. This new album plays like a showreel of the guitarist's talent: 'When The Plains Are Singing' is an exemplary piece of lapsteel playing that absolutely sings, eschewing the more earthy blues figures you might associate with the style in favour of something with an almost weightless, spiritual quality. Similarly, 'Changes' arrives in a flurry of strings and stargazing, strummed drones, and 'Leaving Eden' is a thing of near sublime loveliness. It's largely unrelated from the American bluegrass stem that tends to be at the source of guitar records of this ilk, instead favouring a more modern, occasionally minimalist form. In any case its fluid, modal qualities fit in beautifully alongside the other solos here. Highly recommended.
German acoustic guitatist Steffen Basho-Junghans has always been upfront about his influences. He’s recorded pastoral reveries that find common cause in the work of Leo Kotte, Ralph Towner and Egberto Gismonti, as well as his namesake Robbie Basho. But he’s also followed a line of experimental inquiry that owes nothing to any other guitarist. While boundary pushers from Jimi Hendrix to Brij Bhushan Kabra have extended either technique or technology, Basho-Junghans’s innovations are rooted in restriction. In the early 1990s he stopped playing for nearly a year, while healing after surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. Some years later, a chance encounter with an untuned 12-String launched an investigation of the guitar’s essential voice separate from any acquired technique. Drawing on memories of his slow recovery, Basho-Junghans would improvise on just one string or fashion a piece from varied attacks on a single chord, finding in reduced resources a paradoxically huge and complex sound.
‘IS’ is Basho-Junghans’s first album in three years, although a trickle of contributions to compilations and occasional live dates have kept him from completely dropping out of sight. It is also his first vinyl release, and his most successful reconciliation of the opposing poles of his work. He articulates the extremes on “Leaving Eden”, an effervescently lyrical gambol, and “Changes”, where he wrings ten minutes of richly detailed flux obtained by adding, dropping and accenting one note or another within an incessantly repeated chord. He also traverses from one to the other on the lengthy “When The Plains Are Singing”. Initially the ascending slide figures seem to rise out of the same haunted ground that Blind Willie Johnson once trod, but in short order the notes bend into some alien tuning. They shimmer like heart lightning, burn away in near silent scrapes, then spiral off in vertiginous forays before winding back to a hymn-like theme. The effect Is deeply moving, the music sui generis. --(Bill Meyer/The Wire)
The unconventional ouvre of Steffen Basho-Junghans has been discussed on this site numerous times, with each new release finding some new wrinkle or idiosyncrasy in the German guitarist’s work. Critical acclaim has never been an issue for Basho-Junghans, on Dusted or elsewhere, but he remains rather interminably untouched by greater renown. From his American debut in 2000 until 2006, Basho-Junghans released almost a dozen albums on a variety of labels, his ingenuity and prolificacy combining to create a formidable discography that raised the blood pressure of many acoustic guitar aficionados and went unnoticed by most others. More recent years have been quieter for Basho-Junghans; IS is his first release since 2006 (and his first on vinyl), but this new document shows the guitarist to have relented not one iota in his steel-strung trailblazing.
Cultivating what might be to other players merely incidental or accidental sounds, Basho-Junghans is well-versed in the intricacies of the acoustic guitar’s capabilities. His lyricism, while potent, is often served as a side dish to the more formal explorations of his playing, and IS maintains this tendency. The music, rendered sumptuously on 200-gram vinyl, is heavily indebted to Basho-Junghans’ unorthodox techniques, with even the most conventionally melodic material full of contortionist fret fingering, unexpected interjections, and subtle variations on familiar string manipulations. “When the Plains are Singing” and “...and Like the Wind We Go” bookend the LP with six-string slide work, queasily warping melodies and concentrating on the effects of the cylinder’s rapid back-and-forth movement on the strings. The former contains some of the album’s most straightforwardly evocative material, a spare Western soundtrack repeatedly bent askew.
A constant of IS, from the spindly, multi-limed melody of “Waiting for the Clouds” to the minimalist 12-string strumming of “Changes” is Basho-Junghans’ care in composition and execution. From the simplest two-note alterations to the most complicated strings of notes, strung together like the stars in a constellation, Basho-Junghans isn’t one to go for the flashiest moves or the easiest emotional punch. Instead, he works with a purpose and economy that can sometimes obscure his considerable chops as a writer and as a player. The meditative reverie that IS can inspire makes it easy to overlook the technical complexity Basho-Junghans pulls off throughout the album. --
( Adam Strohm /Adam Strohm)
about "O Som Naha"...
This C90 from Basho-Junghans is the subtitled volume 5 of his Unknown Music series, but apparently the third to see release. Recorded over the course of two days in 2000 with an acoustic guitar and two plastic bottles, “O Som Naha” sees the eclectic German musician at his most minimal. Basho-Junghans employs a strict metronome-like percussive pulse throughout the course of the recording. Precise scrapes dart back and forth over the stereo spectrum and most sounds seem decidedly non-guitar. An occasional low-end electrical pulse builds quietly in the background, only to dissipate. It’s amazing what Basho-Junghans accomplishes with such a limited sonic palette; this release is also subtitled “A Hardcore Meditation”, which is fitting as the recording is both challenging and introspective at the same time. Although mostly devoid of melody, “O Som Naha” still possesses soothing qualitites amongst the tension it creates. 8/10 --
( Kirk Van Husen (9 June, 2010)/Dusted Magazine)
Relentlessly beautiful and strangely subtle:
Steffen Basho-Junghans is a painter, composer, virtuoso guitar player and writer. In a career that has now spanned an incredible five decades, Steffen has quietly been composing and performing pieces of startling beauty, pushing the intrument further and further into uncharted territory. From swirling pastoral meditation to dissonant minimalism and beyond, the music bears the mark of an intense technician without ever sacrificing substance for style.
O SOM NAHA is the third instalment in Steffen's "Unknown Music" series and a true assault on tradition and stagnation. Two microphones, two bottles, one night and one steel-string guitar are the ingredients. On the menu, 90 minutes of devotional melody-collapse, and percussive hypno-symphony. A listening experience that is both meditative and challenging awaits, time is swallowed up as the gentlle tick-tock rhythm entrances, disorientates and mesmerises. --
about "Late Summer Morning"...
German acoustic steel guitar virtuoso Junghans returns with his fifteenth album, consisting of a half dozen 6- and 12-string solo instrumentals. Opening with the epic, 22-minute, side-long title track, Junghans says the album is about that transitional time in late summer when special light, colours, and scents become “part of the grand theatre of nature… It’s the time of painters….” These sketches act as his soundtrack for this “wide screen film.” They also serve as the perfect accompaniment to a leisurely Sunday drive along a sinewy, riverside country road with the cool, flowing water reflecting the flickering sunlight as it carries softly-falling golden leaves to unknown destinations. This is outdoors music that is meant to be experienced in the midst of nature, not huddled inside headphones in the privacy of your listening room.
... A must for any collection, particularly for fans of Junghans, his mentor, Robbie Basho, John Fahey and contemporary artists such as Glenn Jones, Jack Rose and Harris Newman, who mastered the album in his Montreal studio. (Jeff Penczak/Terrascope)
With the recent resurgence in popularity of the works of John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Robbie Basho, this German’s 14th release is the right disc at the right time. An exhibition of a true master of his instrument, Junghans’ disc varies from barren modal landscapes to warm and inviting strumming, all via only six and twelve string guitars.
... As each track develops, you may be tempted to try and pin it down and give it a neat and tidy genre label, a flaw in listeners which has been furthered by the dominance of mp3s. But this is music that exists outside that mindset, and just as a track becomes familiar, it changes entirely, seemingly aware of the dangers of monotony. The most beautiful examples of this are “Azure No. 3”, and album closer “Northern Winds”, in which Junghans develops a wonderfully innovative yet simple melody, only to return to the depths of his own more atonal sound, as if to slight some people’s natural presumptions of strong structure and development...
(Jack Pereira/Harmonium Music)
De zes nummers op zijn nieuwe cd klinken dan ook allemaal landelijk en bucolisch. Junghans is geïmpressioneerd door de wereld rondom hem en slaagt er wonderwel in die impressies om te smeden tot pareltjes van gitaarkunst. Zo verveelt het titelnummer, dat nochtans 22 volle minuten in beslag neemt, geen moment, zoveel verschillende nuances en verbeelding legt Junghans in zijn muziek.
Op de site van Junghans’ label, Strange Attractors, wordt zijn muziek onder andere omschreven als “minimalistische trance-folk”. En hoewel zulke omschrijvingen meestal nogal lelijk klinken, schuilt er wel degelijk meer dan enige waarheid in. Late Summer Evening is vijftig minuten lang wegdromen en bewijst dat je nog steeds maar één instrument en twee handen nodig hebt om een heel universum van klanken te scheppen.
In a musical world devoted to riffs, power chords and devil-horn inducing guitar stances, it’s extremely important to carry on the tradition set by experimental guitar players from Django Reinhardt to Sandy Bull of pushing the boundaries of the instrument as far as humanly possible. The Berlin-born Steffen Basho-Junghans, a direct descendent of the Takoma label trio (John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Robbie Basho), carries on these ideals with his insanely technically-proficient style influenced by American folk, classical, Indian ragga and Eastern modal methods. Using the languid calmness of late summer as a theme, Junghans wields his acoustic steel 6-string guitar with elegance and bravado, letting earthy tones flutter and twinkle with his unorthodox picking and swirling rhythms. Being described as “minimalist trance-folk,” Late Summer Morning captures the same hypnotic vibe as a Steve Reich composition, but within the beautiful confines of a shimmering guitar. It’s a shame that Junghans wasn’t a contemporary of the Takoma trio, because he would have absolutely been grouped in with the cream of the guitar experimenters’ elite.
( music-versity )
In this new album Steffen combines certain previously tried ideas intuitively, from impressionist to raga excursion, like on the first track. The title of the album suggests the reference to the periodically associated Indian raga-structure. “Late Summer Morning” works in that way. Similarly, Steffen also is a painter. The landscape in watercolours on the cover (which continues on the back cover), can be compared to the way guitar excursion also “paints” itself, while the mood fits with the morning, the energy becomes brighter along as an upcoming sun. Another idea derived from periods with experimental minimalism, with moments of silence that speak as much as the melodic intertwining on “In a Secret Garden” or with of new resonating harmonies on “Woodland Orchestra”, combined with more expressive paint, a track which evolves to a very complex height that still sounds natural but very different and unique. The next tracks, like “Sky Dreamer’s World” and “Azure n°3”, which refers to the “Waters in Azure” album, use complex pickings and harmonies. On “Azure” it is as if Steffen has a third hand picking along. Once more this album reveals for the guitar lover areas of finger picking guitar I have the impression..where no one has gone before, but because of the beauty and details of the landscape the global harmony still makes it recognisable. Another brilliant masterpiece.
( psychevanhetfolk )
Geni si può diventare, e Late Summer Morning lo conferma. Può passare una vita di spontanee aspirazioni creative, un’evoluzione costante eppure invisibile, una chitarra acustica che crepita di continuo e muove verso sempre nuovi nuclei armonici, ma mai che arrivi quel particolare traguardo di sintesi perfetta. Invece, Steffen Basho-Junghans in quest’opera trova tutto: poesia, fragilità, intensità, schiettezza. Sperimentazione, certo, pure quella.
...Al terzo episodio della saga degli Azure, le vibrazioni melodiche passano direttamente al cuore, alla vertigine d’insostenibilità, all’atmosfera unica dei suoi scampanellii liturgici. E’ questo il suggello finale e più prezioso di un disco dunque riassuntivo di un’evoluzione sbarellante, free-form, di un’inestricabile evocazione mattutina di tarda estate. Di spiritualità autunnale, persino.
( Michele Saran /SentireAscoltare )
Lyssnandes till Steffen Basho-Junghans justerar jag vid ett flertal tillfällen volymen uppåt. Inte för att det på något vis är svårt att höra musiken utan för att jag vill komma närmare och känna varje anslag på gitarren, varje plockande ton ska nå den avsedda slutadressen och det är som att Basho-Junghans förträfflighet på en gång blir så mycket mer slående när hela rummet och väggarna fylls av hans slingrande gitarrspel. Det som på avstånd kan missbedömas som endast tekniskt begåvat, nästan kliniskt, sveps plötsligt in i ett lapptäcke av sommardoftande klanger. En stillsamt rinnande flod av känslor i miniatyr växer sig allt starkare genom skivans 53 minuter och när allt är över är det just de emotionella krafterna som finns kvar.
Musikaliskt blandas som vanligt den primitiva amerikanska folktraditionen med melodisk minimalism, klassiskt gitarrspel och indisk raga. ”Late Summer Morning” är Basho-Junghans trettonde skiva och även om jag endast hört drygt hälften törs jag likväl påstå att det här är en av de allra bästa. Samtidigt som den på ett sätt är mer lättillgänglig och melodisk än en del av föregångarna är den också mer känsloladdad. Jag har svårt att tänka mig något vackrare än att i sällskap av ”Late Summer Morning” njuta av sensommarkvällen som speglar sig i havet och att iaktta molnen som jagar över den snabbt mörknande himlen.
( Mats Gustafsson / Sound of Music )
about "Last Days of the Dragons"...
Locust Music bracht al eerder solo-gitaristen uit in het kader van de 'Wooden Guitar' serie. De eer is nu aan de Berlijnse wondergitarist Steffen Basho-Junghans. Op zes- en twaalfsnarige gitaar is hij in zijn element. Zijn techniek is fenomenaal en zijn stijl verbijsterend. Hij zou zelfs traditionele en experimentele methoden van nieuwe inzichten voorzien, waardoor we nooit meer hetzelfde over John Fahey, Peter Walker, Sandy Bull en Loren Connors zullen denken.
( konkurrent.nl )
Another entry in LOCUST MUSIC's "Wooden Guitar" series, and this time out its German guitarist STEFFEN BASHO-JUNGHANS; employing the shared last name of the Zen philosopher and the firebrand acoustic guitar player, "Last Days of the Dragons" is a sprawling and sometimes epic display of guitar prowess and a distinct study in patience, resonance and american folk forms. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
( Reckless Records )
about "In the Morning Twilight"...
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
Or maybe it's because an album as brilliant as In the Morning Twilight comes
out in a pressing of 265 on a Norwegian 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? ...............
............The guitarist transitions effortlessly between the cascading
glissandos of such more experimental efforts and straighter melodies like
³Charlette² and ³Last Days of the Dragon,² 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.
- Bill Meyer/Dusted Magazine
about "Unknown Music 2 - Transwarp Meditation"...
Steffen Basho-Junghans’ explorations are often so startlingly strange and compelling that it’s surprising he isn’t better known. The German cites fellow guitarists John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and his namesake Robbie Basho as influences, but like them, Junghans has obviously absorbed various types of non-western music as well. At his most breathtakingly out-there, his music takes in traditional music from India, West Africa and Indonesia; folk; early Minimalism; and avant-garde explorations of extended techniques. But his seamless and utterly distinctive way of combining all of these makes clear that his style was developed over many years and probably not through the sort of self-conscious genre-dabbling that his list of antecedents might suggest.
- Charlie Wilmoth/Dusted Magazine
He has integrated an interest in his instrument's sound-generating capacities with an unabashed lyricism, which renders even atonal digressions quite fetching. I'm already eager to hear Volume III.
- Bill Meyer/Signal to Noise
about "Unknown Music I -Alien Letter"....
German acoustic guitarist Steffen Basho-Junghans has stood with one foot
planted in his instrument¹s tradition ‹ not just the Basho-Fahey-Kottke
Takoma branch, but the Gismonti-Towner ECM one ‹ and a highly idiosyncratic,
personal approach to the instrument that owes little to other
experimentalists. This record falls into neither camp, but employs elements
of both.... This is an excellent album, more
consistent and digestible than last year¹s epic 7 Books, and well worth
- Bill Meyer /Signal to Noise
"'Alien Letter is the 1st project of a series of guitar 'excursions into the Unknown', most of them dialogues with one guitar, recorded live and pure (in my living room) to dat and edited gently. Into this one I came deep at night, when I took a guitar to close the 'day' with some sounds. The channel characteristics are those of the player position. No overdubs or reverb have been added.' - SBJ, Berlin, August 2004. This is how Steffen describes his brand new album, the first one for Sillyboy Records. For us, Alien Letter is another fascinating chapter in Junghans' outstanding musical career - and one of the most mysteriously intriguing. This time, the Berlin-based acoustic guitarist is really mapping uncharted territories and the result is this dense, massive album, linked to the tradition of both Derek Bailey and John Fahey, but also one step forward, out in the unknown. Quite literally beyond description, spiritual and out-there, Alien Letter has probably more in common with the healing power of Albert Ayler and surely it is a deeply personal missive from one of today's greatest acoustic guitarists."
about "7 Books"....
A double CD, a work of 7 pieces for solo 12 string guitar; a vision of birth and evolution, from the first entry of the universe to modern days. It features associating poems by Cheyenne poet Lance Henson. His poetry, written during late Summer 2001 and the following Winter, speaks from a very personal place; It is like opening a personal "time window" in the stream. Music and poetry can be a very singular discovery.
..these seven "books" sound more like traditional Indian ragas arranged for 12-string guitar and then filtered through a free jazz sensibility.. Basho-Junghans is able to explore a surprisingly wide variety of moods over the course of the two-disc set.
- All Music Guide
After exploring the roots of contemporary acoustic based instrumental music with last year’s fantastic Rivers and Bridges, Basho-Junghans comes roaring back with a 7 song, 2 hour (!) double disc set of some of the most exploratory guitar music this side of Derek Bailey, maybe Bailey if he tried to adopt the approach of minimalist composers? Rod Poole, an acoustic guiarist who uses the “just intonation” scale, also comes to mind. I think the average John Fahey/Robbie Basho fan might find this a bit too alien, in fact even the previous “out” music of Inside and Waters In Azure will not be much preparation for this sprawling set, where “accidents” and utterly non-traditional styles of play are turned into 10-20 minute epics of raging technique and heart. On the second disc he even ups the ante by switching to slide guitar. This man needs to tour, or at least put out a video or something, so we can see how he does this stuff, because as I listen to it it’s really hard to imagine what the heck he is doing to get some of these noises. This release probably isn’t the ideal place for the uninitiated, but hey, I could be wrong, sometimes jumping straight in to the most challenging stuff is the most rewarding, even if it takes a while to come around to. Another stunner from a guy who has already made several.
While a double CD may be a bit exhausting, this offers over an hour and a half of Steffen's compelling slide guitar work, as well as his top notch fingerpicking explorations. Of today's top fingerpicking guitarists (Jack Rose, Ben Chasny, Glenn Jones), Steffen is far and away the most distinctive, having charted his own path completely removed from all convention.
- sean hammond,2004 jun 18 / Fakejazz
"7 Books" is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Listening to Steffen Basho-Junghans play and manipulate his acoustic guitar to produce seemingly foreign sounds is a privilege. This is as minimalist as it comes, but don't let that scare you away. Basho-Junghans carefully chooses his notes and makes sure that he only picks the perfect ones. He creates vast amounts of space for the music to bounce around in, and in that space he lulls his listeners into a state of reverie. Once you finally let your mind go, "7 Books" will blow you away too.
Herr Basho-Junghans and his 7 Books will come into their own accompanying Pollock, Rauschenberg and Rothko, not to confuse this music as American in focus. It is painterly and filmic. 'IV' in particular. This music begins where Robbie Basho, Ry Cooder (at his most Wim Wenders) or John Fahey put their guitars down to recuperate.
These are sonic adventures, delivered by guitar but grown tall because of rudra vina and sarod sensibilities. None of it is easy. To no little degree, this ultimately visual music's reception depends on the listener's mood. Seven sonic landscapes, though not necessarily from Planet Earth, despite their metal-strung, 12-string provenance. Having followed Basho-Junghans' musical development since 1991, I have no hesitation in pronouncing it most pleasuring weirdness.
So mysterious are some of Basho-Junghans' techniques that moments from "III" and "IV" sound as though they have been digitally manipulated to accent the dissonance on display and recall the stranger moments on The Books' The Lemon of Pink. However, Basho-Junghans is a purist and abstains from precisely this sort of trickery. The result is an album thatis remarkable in the reach of its sound and its confounding presentation ofacoustic guitar. It may not be easy listening, but it is nonetheless astonishing.
Steffen Basho-Junghans’ steel string guitar, the traditional tool of western blues, drifts far, far east of its origins into a place where dragons likely rule. 7 Books is the sound of John Fahey collapsing upon himself and re-emerging as a pulsar.
- Eric Hill/Exclaim! Canada's Music Authority
about "Rivers and Bridges"....
Even with fifteen years of guitar experience, I cannot accurately describe what he plays (studying took away the fun). I can say his songs conjure up visions of vast, flowing rivers and trickling creeks that vie with thick forests and wide-open fields. As the fingers on one hand feverishly pick away at every string, the fingers on his other hand dance effortlessly over the neck as he plays rhythm and lead simultaneously. He also melds slow, gentle strums and light picking to create suspenseful wonder. Despite recording Rivers and Bridges live and alone, it sounds like multiple tracks of guitarists in perfect harmony.
Steffen Basho-Junghans is a rare talent in that he is able to express pure feeling with his playing. Like all great guitarists, he understands that being technical and formulaic will only make you a good guitarist; and if your hands can't keep up with your mind, you will fail to fully express yourself. Steffen's free-form style of playing proves that he has mastered these aspects, but as he gets better with each album, I doubt he will ever stop striving to show the limitless possibilities of human-guitar interaction.
Having adopted guitarist Robbie Basho's name after hearing his music on record, Basho-Junghans owes a large debt to the entire Takoma record guitar school (John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, Basho), but he has gradually assimilated their music into a broader personal vision. Fortunately, a number of the CDs that Basho-Junghans has self-produced and released since 1995 have been licensed and distributed in the U.S. by several small but discerning U.S. record labels. This music ranges from lyrical, impressionistic fingerpicking and rich, rhythmic chordal strumming to fairly radical experimentation - such as an exploration of the timbral possibilities of an untuned 12-string guitar to locate its "soul," or the self-imposed discipline of playing an entire piece using only one finger of his fretting hand. No mere technician, Basho-Junghans communicates a kind of austere Zen clarity in his more radical pieces, and pushes the guitar in directions that probably wouldn't even have occurred to the earlier Basho. Rivers and Bridges, however, like the slightly earlier Song of the Earth, is much more reminiscent of a vintage Robbie Basho recording. Robbie Basho himself was a kind of neo-primitive visionary, who broke new ground with a blend of folk-blues, bluegrass, flamenco, and raga modalities. (Another guitarist, Sandy Bull, now almost forgotten, was doing much the same thing in the mid-'60s with his "Blend I" and "Blend II" pieces.) Basho-Junghans is clearly sustaining this eclectic tradition on Rivers and Bridges.
- Bill Tilland /AMG
The music on Rivers and Bridges is less experimental than on his previous works. Basho-Junghans delves into the traditions of his instrument here. But don't let that lead you to believe that it is played with any less integrity or passion. And just because it's not as experimental, doesn't mean it's any less exploratory.
This is pure, organic, beautiful acoustic music, played with grace and reverence by a true modern master.
A gem, not a weak moment; this is essential to anyone interested in the guitar and the sounds and feelings that it is capable of eloquently communicating.
- Dream Magazine/USA
Dense, meditative layers of complex steel-string guitar are draped over the listener; every piece evokes feelings of relaxation and self-reflection. The twenty minute opener, "The River Suite," played on an acoustic six-string, is a fascinating voyage into Steffen's world. Influences from both the Western world and the Middle East are present; the melodies derive themselves from exotic East Indian music structures as much as they do from folky Americana. Basho-Junghans can switch from key to key, note to note, without the listener batting an eye. His style is magnificent. By the time you've reached "The Takoma Bridge Incident," played on a twelve-string guitar, you're already deep in a musical trance. His wonderful, dedicated playing never ceases to affect the listener. And though the pieces may be long, and the music purely instrumental, it never becomes an exercise in arrogant experimental tedium.
Don't miss out on Rivers and Bridges. Pick this up as soon as you can find it. And if you haven't already, go track down the rest of Steffen's discography. This is music that will never lose its beauty.
Three astounding singular experimental acoustic guitar albums in three years by Berlin's acoustic steel string guitar master Steffen Basho-Junghans have dramatically reinvented the possibilities of the acoustic guitar. But, as groundbreaking as these recent works are, Basho-Junghans certainly has not forgotten his roots. Rivers And Bridges marks a stylistic departure from his recent explorations and a return to those seminal steel string influences, celebrating the ecstatic beauty of folk music from the Americas and the East across six lush, shimmering compositions. Rivers And Bridges is a pastoral experience, rich in color and texture, that courses through various moods with a river allegory at its' core. Impressionist six & twelve-string dramaturgy cascade forth, ebbing and flowing in steady waves across placid sound pools and frothing rapids. Rivers And Bridges touches upon American folk, Native American linearity, Middle Eastern resonance, East Indian raga and Western classical music with heartfelt ease - and often within the same tune. This is an instant classic acoustic guitar record, sounding familiar and yet imbued with subtleties unlike anything else you've heard before.
Of his American releases, Rivers and Bridges is certainly Basho-Junghans' most straightforward. Song of the Earth was presented as a sonic exploration of the four elements -- fire, air, earth and water; Inside and Waters in Azure strove toward microtonal textures through unorthodox tapping and picking styles, and Landscapes in Exile functioned as a brash aural anomaly filled with flowery drones. However, all of these albums share a unique organic quality uncommon in today's digital world: BAsho-Junghans opts to record live into a DAT without any overdubs or separate tracks. Although this has little, or no, effect on a listener's initial impressions, repeated spins of Rivers and Bridges can't help but make one wax nostalgic for a time when substance flourished over surfaces.
-Ronald Andryshak, February 21, 2003 / Junkmedia
It's a damn bold proposition to sit down with an instrument and some recording equipment, and just play, with the intent of making an album out of the session. That's precisely what Steffen Basho Junghans does for each of his albums, though; he just sets up and plays his acoustic guitars without so much as an overdub to hide behind nor a quick edit to cover his ass. He's so sure-fingered on the fretboard that it frequently sounds like there are two or three people picking away at the steel string, but it's always just him and his craft, which by this point (he's almost fifty years old), he's completely mastered.
Junghans' solo acoustic pieces, written for both six and twelve-stringed instruments, are nothing if not deeply bound to the earth;
Rivers & Bridges opens up with a twenty-two minute (!) meditation called "The River Suite", which while not strictly a suite, nevertheless embodies the flow of a river across miles of rolling terrain, to a tee.
...To this end, his work also frequently calls to mind the classical music of India, with its narrow harmonic scope and constant pedal points. For all its myriad permutations, "Takoma Bridge" remains incredibly consistent in the scales and chords it employs; the best section is a brief but breathtaking passage where he drops in brilliantly bright harmonics for color-- acoustic guitar harmonics sound so rich on a twelve-string, and he uses the instrument's resonance to his full advantage.
I'm curious as to how Junghans will be viewed in another twenty years, because I see him as the logical inheritor of the original Takoma ethos, and he's certainly the most consistent practitioner of it since Basho and Fahey both passed on early.
-Joe Tangari, June 20th, 2003 / Pitchfork Media
Rivers and Bridges is a pastoral experience, rich in color and texture, coursing through various moods with a river allegory at its' core. Impressionist six-string dramaturgy cascades forth, ebbing and flowing in steady raga-like waves, across placid sound pools and frothing tonal rapids. Through each piece a myriad of sounds and styles are explored, touching upon American folk, Native American linearity, Middle Eastern resonance, East Indian raga and Western classical with heartfelt ease and often within the same tune. Propelled all the while by an intricate sense of melodic invention, the depth of imagery and complexity of texture is remarkable and simply gorgeous. Reminiscent of his Songs of the Earth release (Sublingual, 2000) and the timeless Takoma Records sound, Rivers and Bridges is an instant c! lassic acoustic guitar record, sounding familiar and yet imbued with subtleties unlike anything else you've heard before. Steffen Basho-Junghans rounds out the elaborate scope of his music with Rivers and Bridges, proving why he is widely regarded as one of today's most important acoustic guitar figures.
This record is above all the musical equivalent to a narrative having for main theme an initiatory trip in search of oneself during which the listener discovers an overwhelming form of sensitivity wrapped in an almost pure sensation of freedom.
This is a solo 6 and 12 string guitar album of really rich depth and emotion. Stunningly beautiful and intricate as well, this is possibly my favorite of his works. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Americana-style solo acoustic guitar.
Junghans' latest recording, Rivers And Bridges, is much more straightforwardly gorgeous. It's at once a celebration of the epic natural topography that many of Fahey's or Basho's recordings eulogised, and a return to the source of his initial inspiration via a series of suites that speak of ‚places and memories' as dotted notes on a vast unmapped musical landscape. It's the kind of space you can get lost in for days.
-David Keenan / The Wire/GB
In recent years, German guitarist Junghans (the "Basho" is adapted from his guru/mentor, Robbie Basho) has been quietly releasing some of the finest entries in the genre, and nowhere is this more apparent than on this, his third full length. Combining elements of all styles, from the folky melodicism of Nick Drake ("Hear the Winds Coming") to the intricately elaborate sidelong "The River Suite," Basho brings a warmth to the instrument with these emotional performances, avoiding the cold, clinical, "gee-whiz, listen to this" trappings that an album of acoustic guitar performances can often degenerate into.
Cultists who are more into this music than I am will have fun playing a little game of "name that guitarist," and I can imagine the more upper-crusty clerks around the world (i.e., the High Fidelity-type elitist snobs) slapping on "The Tacoma Bridge Incident" and waiting for one of the rack browsers to enquire "Is this the new John Fahey?"
This is very visual music, with titles providing a springboard to a daydream of the listener's self-composed images: "Rainbow Dancing" evokes images of tranquil, post-storm blue skies and children dancing in a field beneath rainbows stretching across the horizons; "Autumn II" is tentative and syncopated, as nature attempts to ward off the onset of fierce, cold winters, desperately clinging to the warmth of the summer...An emotional, evocative listening experience.
While I can't claim Junghans is making the most unique, most high-quality guitar instrumental music today, this release is very enjoyable. It conflicts with my general beliefs about what is good and bad in music. Maybe the answer is in his German nationality. Where Takoma guitarists were lyricists of the American countryside, filtered through Basho-Junghans steely guitar lens, these works sing of different mountainsides and lakes, different nature, a different home. Despite the similarities of style, Junghans is conveying something ever-so-slightly different, and it makes for an album of beauty. Highly recommended.
Alternating between a 6-steelstring guitar and a 12-steelstring guitar, Basho-Junghans uses a great amount of effort to convey a sound that is neither steeped in world or folk music. The opening opus, "The River Suite" is very soothing and relaxing, never faltering over its mind-boggling twenty-two minutes. Although it may sound like he is layering guitars, the dexterity within proves it's not the case. If you could imagine British guitarist Adrian Legg on high-speed dubbing, this is what it could amount to.
-Jason MacNeil, Popmatters
"The River Suite" is a beautiful 22 minutes long finger picking song. I can't recall many more long guitar tracks with this quality, craftsmanship and inspiration. It was inspired by Virgil Thompson's "Louisiana Story". Also "Hear the winds coming" is somewhat similar in style, slightly different in mood. "The Takoma Bridge incident" pays tribute to John Fahey's steel string guitar label Takoma that supported steel string guitarists (like also Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke, Peter Lang). It's a 12 string guitar finger picking track with changing moods and references. "Rainbow Dancing" with 12 string guitar has a more happy mood, while "Autumn II" has the mood deriving from meditation into an awakening inspired reflective moment, as "spring is the freshness of water in autumn". The short "Epilogue" with 6 string guitar is a well thought out track with nice balanced contrasts in tones and ideas.
On "Rivers and Bridges" various rivers have been travelled, rarely seen bridges have been crossed with such easy and fluidity !
about "Waters in Azure"....
- Amazing. Only a year after the release of his wonderful "Inside" album, Basho-Junghans has released yet another gem. At some points relaxing, at other points stimulating, "Waters In Azure" manages to carry you through a range of feelings and emotions. .. "Waters of Azure" is a moving, pulsating adventure.
· Indieville /USA
- It's hard to say if Basho-Junghans will be spoken of in later generations with the same revered awe given to John Fahey, Sandy Bull, or namesake/inspiration Robbie Basho, but the German guitarist continues to demonstrate why his work could hold that promise on Waters in Azure.
· All Music Guide
- Junghans is an iconoclast of the highest order. His solo guitar performances sound like intergalactic symphonies, weird extraterrestrial voyages through timbre and texture. One cannot fully appreciate this music by inspecting its meticulous detail--instead, you must zoom out to see the forest instead of the trees. On Waters in Azure, Junghans takes a decidedly aquatic approach to guitar deconstruction. This music has a floating, trance-like quality, washing in and out in a decidedly tidal fashion. Like the gamelan or any number of ritual musics from around the world, Junghans seems to be calling the spirits down to earth.
-Nils Jacobson /· All About Jazz /USA
- Steffen Basho-Junghans is still beating the most unbelievable sounds imaginable from a steel string acoustic guitar. After last year's fantastic INSIDE he returns with this set of smaller pieces, driven largely by "Inside the Rain" which rocks as hard as possible for a man playing 12-string solo guitar.
Waters in Azure is another masterpiece.
-John Fail / · Fakejazz /USA
- Here's the seventh cd (!) from Berlin's foremost acoustic 12-string manipulator... this one follows suit with more of his explorations in "minimalist solo steelstring guitar". But the results don't sound forced, they just sound like nothing you've really ever heard from a "normal" solo guitarist.
· Aquarius Records /USA
about "Landscapes in Exile"....
German guitarist Steffen Basho Junghans may be unconventional but the techniques he employs on Landscapes in Exile are obvious enough: alternative soundings suggested by the nature of the instrument. Nothing in his approach reeks of trickery or perversity. Immediately striking is his decisiveness - firm gestures far removed from tentative probing. His music is testimony to countless hours spent getting to know his six and 12 string acoustic guitars inside out.
He has made no secret of his affinities with American guitarists Robbie Basho, John Fahey, Peter Lang and Leo Kottke, and his playing overlaps their specific characters. But this album emerges from the throbbing core of Basho Junghans' relationship with his instruments. Resilient strings are hammered, tapped, rubbed and scratched. The guitar whispers and roars. The resulting music usually has a strongly propulsive rhythmic drive. Each moment is effectively orchestrated, with Basho Junghans picking out melodic figures within percussively punctuated sequences of chords and phantom chords. Even when he's negotiating vertiginous slides, he is emphatically in control. Listeners familiar with his album INSIDE (Strange Attractors, 2001) will be hungry for the lengthy, two part title track of Landscapes in Exile. Its motoric chug should also appeal to anyone with a taste for Indian ragas, Native American chants or Neu!'s Krautrock at its most
Julian Cowley / The Wire
Landscapes in Exile is a pure sonic exploration of unknown aural landscapes that Basho-Junghans undertook as dictated by the verb "listen."
...The final work, "Flowery Moonlight," literally sounds as if it could have been a collaboration of Morton Feldman's ideas about the non-binding relationships between notes and sounds and John Cage's idea that disruption was only the deepening of a particular work....
It's a brilliant work that will be looked at for years to come and will no doubt influence many
La strada intrapresa è sicuramente impervia e ricca di ostacoli: la scelta di esplorare il microcosmo sonoro di una comune chitarra acustica, senza affidarsi a effetti o sovraincisioni è coraggiosa, e il risultato è sorprendente per la varietà di suoni e situazioni creati in un contesto solo apparentemente statico. Paesaggi straordinari prendono forma sotto le abili dita di Basho-Junghans, che utilizza tutte le possibilità di generazione di suono, più o meno ortodosse, messegli a disposizione dallo strumento. La musica non ha più niente di tradizionale, tutta giocata tra ritmo e timbrica; solo nella corta e conclusiva "Flowery moonlight" si affaccia qualche accordo riconoscibile come tale. Per il resto, è tutto un percuotere, pizzicare, strofinare le corde ad ottenere effetti sonori simil-elettronici come nella lunga "Landscapes in Exile", diretta progenitrice della suite "Inside" incisa successivamente.
Disco non facile, che rischia di deludere quanti cercano da un chitarrista un approccio più tradizionale allo strumento e alla musica, ma potrà interessare gli appassionati del chitarrismo più sperimentale e avventuroso.
The 2nd US release
from this former East German guitarist, his most radically inventive work, full of propulsive rhythmic minimalism -- a new plateau in solo guitar audio.
Forced Exposure (USA)
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. 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.
— Thom Jurek /All Music Guide (USA)
A great new record by Junghans, a soon-to-be much more well known
guitarist from the former East Berlin. Solo acoustic steel string
guitar is his thing. "Inside" is a folk-trance album of exquisite
beauty that has been compared to his evident hero Robbie Basho as
well as to Loren Mazzacane Connors. Obviously, John Fahey would be
another reference point, and Junghans' sometimes quite repetitive
minimalism also puts us in mind of Rod Poole. The disc is divided
into three "movements", starting in a simple, rhythmic manner
(sounding very avant-garde & "Eastern" & Rod Poole-like) before
morphing into some equally radical intricacies. There's no overdubs, but lots of variation. It's all very beautiful and hypnotic, never too difficult (to listen to, that is -- to play this stuff I'm sure is difficult). With colorful liner notes by Byron Coley.
Aquarius Records /San Francisco, California
It sounds like nothing you've heard before. The only parallels are in more experimental or avant rock areas, of which Junghans claims to be ignorant. The restless percussive circling sounds in places like a campfire Can, or a folk-primitive Spacemen 3, or Derek Bailey's early Incus sides. Byron Coley's sleevenotes refer to Loren
MazzaCane Connor's acoustic work, except his has identifiable roots.
radical new voice and perspective out of the acoustic guitar...
An astonishing array of sounds are coaxed out of his acoustic steel string, remarkable considering INSIDE was recorded solo, with no overdubs whatsoever. Standing uniquely apart as a singular suite of minimal-trance for solo acoustic guitar, INSIDE sets folk standards collectively on it's ear.
With this record, Steffen Basho-Junghans makes a radical statement on the potential of acoustic guitar music. His ultimate achievement, however, is the creation of absolute beauty. Comes highly recommended by the Crew.
Another outstanding work-out for this new solo acoustic guitar wizard from a new European hero named after the legendary Robbie Basho!
Downtown Music Gallery
Apparent simplicity can often disguise depth of thought. Guitarist Steffen Basho-Junghans demonstrates this point convincingly on his new disc, double-entendred Inside.. Recorded live to tape, this performance relies on resonance, stark repetition, juxtaposed rhythmic units, and ornamentation to achieve its effects. Basho-Junghans abandons any conventional sense of melody or harmony, instead structuring his music upon gradual tonal development.
The double meaning of the title refers at once to the music's authentic trance-like character and the ironically "outside" nature of the guitar technique employed along the way. Basho-Junghans uses unorthodox tapping, stretching, and picking styles to expand his guitar's vocabulary into the realms of microtones, percussive attack, and small-interval textures. Apt comparisons include John Fahey's unswerving deliberateness and Leo Kottke's attention to rhythmic construction. But Basho-Junghans has developed a style all his own. And it's anything but passive: these compositions stand as an antithesis to New Age.
Inside does not promise universal appeal. It's clearly an experimental record, both in its exploration of tone and its focus on small-interval dynamics. But the open-eared listener willing to appreciate Basho-Junghans's eclecticism will find his music vibrant and pulsing with quiet energy. In much the same way that Eastern trance music draws upon repetition to enable meditation, Inside suggests an otherworldly sonic universe with its own organic pulse.
Nils Jacobson /All About Jazz
Despite similarities to the work of Brij Bhushan Kabra, Rod Poole, and of course Basho, his playing here is in a class of its own. He tugs hard at the strings, sustains ringing percussive runs, and coaxes koto-like glisses from his steel-stringed instrument. Junghans's technique is impressive, but never an end in itself; instead, he uses it to articulate hypnotic, propulsive compositions that are as intense as the best Hindustani ragas.
Bill Meyer / Amazon.com
Somewhere between the rhythmic rigidity of Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint and the wide-open guitar wanderings of Loren Mazzacane Connors
N.Morrison / Epitonic.com
Liner Notes for "INSIDE" by Byron Coley
Steffen "Basho" Junghans has emerged over the last few yrs as one of the most provocative explorers of the acoustic guitar universe. Initially viewed as just another-German-trying-to-swallow-the-sun, Junghans' compressed visions for guitar's expanded horizons have now achieved such a magnificent alchemical balance, that his identity-as-performer has assumed its own monstrously iconoclastic shape.
"Inside" is a suite in five ostensible parts. Some are linked via
constructive tropes. Others exist in their own spectral aether, huzzing like clouds of past-due ambrosia vomited into the heavens by dizzy goddesses. For a while it has been clear that Junghans' compositional concepts have made an end run around those of his nominal model -- the late Robbie "Basho" Robinson. But the inventions on "Inside" are more radical than anything that has gone
before them, and the quivering spirit wheels of Steffen's strings are comparable in places to nothing except the earliest recorded improvisations of Loren Mazzacane Connors. But Connors' protean work was "recognizable" in the sense that it was blues-based. Junghans' music can seem even more "alien," since it appears to
evolve from some of the Eastern tunings favored by Robinson.
Regardless of the differences between their stylistic husks, all three of these guitarists share access to powerful depths of emotion. Many composers and players are hacks, telegraphing their intent w/ moves so banal that they lack real meaning for anyone w/ half a mind. Junghans (like Connors and Robinson) communicates oceans of joy and fear and sorrow and transcendence w/o
cheapening his language. The sentiments that roll off of his strings can seem almost hermetically personal, but they actually function w/ a near-platonic universality that should guide their arrows straight into the pineal glands of all enlightened listeners.
With the release of "Inside", Steffen has continued his attack on the death dwarves that surround all of us. Let us hope that the flaming ring of his soul continues to cast its white hot radiance for many seasons to come. Hell must be a very cold place.
Deerfield, MA 2000