Listening Room

09 Van StiefelVan Stiefel – Spirits
Van Stiefel
Panoramic Recordings PAN21 (newfocusrecordings.com)

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King of Cups - Listen on YouTube

Clairvoyance - Listen on YouTube

Ground - Listen on YouTube

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Renowned contemporary guitarist and composer Van Stiefel set out on a mission to thoroughly compose, perform and record his own album from top to bottom; his latest release is the worthy result of that endeavour. Taking inspiration from favourites of his such as Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Glen Campbell, Stiefel puts his own twist on the concept of the studio-instrumental album by expertly using a recording and editing technique called “layered guitar.” The record is a journey through moments, thoughts and experiences in the guitarist’s life through a fascinating and immersive soundscape of sonorous snippets. 

Stiefel describes the pieces as being almost like “journal entries that hint at secrets, idiosyncrasies, and personal rituals.” Each tune is completely different from the last, calling forth a mood or image into the listener’s mind. King of Cups begins the album with a slightly country-flavoured piece over which a haunting processed melody is overlayed. Memory Jug is a unique and explorative piece with its striking dissonance and computer-generated sounds in the background creating a futuristic and robotic tune. Acquiescence – as well as a few other pieces – captivate due to the technique of “cutting and pasting” fragments of melody to create a new whole. This is an album that would be a great fit for anyone looking to expand their auditory palette.

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