When I read the introductory notes to Old And New Ghosts – as everyone should do before listening – I understood what Jason Kahn meant straight away. Not infrequently a guitarist develops a fruitful relationship with a not-exactly-perfect, sometimes even cheap machine rather than a luxurious one. A sort of vibratory correspondence where mutual trust grows between the parties. We learn to know and appreciate the instrument’s peculiarities without calling them “defects”; the instrument provides unexpectedly persuasive answers. A combination of such predispositions can give rise to music as beautiful as it is uncontaminated, something one’s never tired of being pervaded by. By continuing to play and search within the sound, surviving quotidian banality and overambitious words depicting depths not authentically probed becomes much easier.
The choice to reveal the subtleties of the connection with a 12-string Stella exclusively through the bare fingers and a tone bar supports a listener receptive to infinitesimal nuances; being a guitar player definitely helps, but it’s not mandatory. By recording short sketches in solitude and in fairly rapid succession, the artist prevented the engine of instant creativity from cooling. These improvisations comprise resonances cutting silence in splendid fashion, clusters of pitches and harmonics replete with glitter and sparks, bent tones that refer – as Kahn himself explains – to a rewarding avant-blues of sorts. We instantly get used to the sonorities coming from the slightly-too-high strings of the Stella, both wobbly and generous. At the same time, Kahn’s explorative focus and excitement of discovery are distinctly recognized in a classic case of acoustic rags to riches.