In keeping with the interest in vocal improvisation expressed in recent years – initially concretized on 2015’s Songline – Jason Kahn armed himself with a resonator guitar and recorded a good amount of solo pieces inside Zurich’s Kunstraum Walcheturm, a venue known for its resonant qualities. No spectators were present, but Kahn was focusing on the emotional core of the matter exactly as he would in concert.
Although convinced that “improvisation can only develop with an audience” (for the record, this writer thinks the opposite is true), Kahn managed to strike an uncommon balance between refined forms and uttered viscerality. The approach on the instrument – reportedly the first he ever played, well before the electronic/percussive ventures that made him renowned – is that of a modern bluesman: the fingers’ savvy on the strings is clearly felt, both in the stronger passages and when a higher degree of understatedness is involved.
The voice finds attractive parallelisms with the guitar in the sliding interstices that link the tonal centres (hypothetical or real), enhancing our participation with a compound of unrepressed primordial energies and tense insightfulness. Kahn does look for guide lights and sweeter spots as we all do during adversity; however, to achieve the aim he shows no fear whatsoever in treading seriously uncomfortable paths. Occasionally, he appears to suffer excruciatingly while singing; in other tracks, the imageries evoked project out-and-out wordless rituals. In any circumstance, not a single minute is deprived of conspicuous events.
Ultimately, time is needed to sponge up what Kahn tried to transfer; the hours spent within this album are going to be repaid in full. As he writes in the introductory notes, “for me there is no destination, just points along the way”. We’re happy to trek in the company of a seeker who’s never afraid of disclosing his nakedness.