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Steffen Basho-Junghans - Rivers And Bridges

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Artist: Steffen Basho-Junghans

Album: Rivers And Bridges

Label: Strange Attractors Audio House

Review date: Mar. 6, 2003

Actually Inside

Rivers And Bridges may surprise listeners who were introduced to Steffen Basho-Junghans through Inside and Waters In Azure, Junghans’ other recent records on Portland’s Strange Attractors label. On those albums, Junghans, armed with only a few guitars and a truckload of reverb, created repetitive, cinematic pieces that used some very unusual extended techniques. His unique style, which embraced minimalism, North Indian raga and the lonely desert feel of John Fahey, sounded fully formed, as if Junghans had years to make sense of the strange, shimmering textures he was creating.

Rivers And Bridges is a fine record on its own, but next to Inside and Waters In Azure it feels like a step backward. Junghans is still working with guitars and reverb, and like its predecessors, the album feels like it’s moving somewhere even when it’s not drastically changing. But otherwise, Rivers And Bridges is completely different.

Most importantly, the extended techniques are gone, and with them all but traces of the minimalist and Indian influences that gave Junghans’ previous albums their color. Most of the tracks on Rivers and Bridges feature only a few chords, arranged in a rather ordinary pluck-and-strum manner that’s miles away from the pulsing, Steve Reich-like rolling-hills dynamic shifts on Inside and Waters In Azure.

And unlike Rivers And Bridges, much of Waters In Azure didn’t sound like a guitar at all, much in the way that Mimi Parker’s voice doesn’t sound like a voice if you listen to Low’s The Curtain Hits The Cast in just the right way. Both performers avoided the tropes of their instruments by turning their attack and accent patterns inside out. Parker focused on stable, sustained tones rather than word meanings and heavy accents; Junghans used streams of repetitive, weird noises that were notable not so much because they sounded weird, but because they reduced the role of accents naturally made by the pick.

Junghans was on to something with those albums, making music that was simultaneously unusual, provocative and beautiful. Some listeners would probably argue that Rivers And Bridges is still pretty beautiful, and I’m willing to concede that it is. The album is well done and even lovely, and its open-chord, instrumental-folkie feel makes sense of Junghans’ oft-declared love for Leo Kottke’s music. On its own terms, it’s a terrific album, but after Junghans’ last two brilliant records, Rivers And Bridges is a mild disappointment.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Other Reviews of Steffen Basho-Junghans

Waters in Azure

7 Books

Unknown Music II: Transwarp Meditation

In the Morning Twilight


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View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Strange Attractors Audio House

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