Spirits

by Van Stiefel

/
  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $10 USD  or more

     

1.
King of Cups 04:33
2.
Solace 02:08
3.
Memory Jug 04:48
4.
Acquiescence 01:37
5.
Spirits 03:34
6.
Consequence 01:48
7.
Pink Cloud 04:58
8.
Harbor 10:55
9.
Clairvoyance 01:54
10.
Ghost Flare 04:31
11.
Luminescence 02:00
12.
Jewel Tree 04:16
13.
Severance 02:24
14.
Ground 07:47

about

Composer and guitarist Van Stiefel's Spirits is his unique take on the studio-instrumental albums of layered guitar by legends like Les Paul, Chet Atkins, and Glen Campbell, filtered through his own introspective and personally spiritual approach to the instrument. Those albums were often a series of vignettes, each tune suggesting a particular location, mood, or flavor. This album turns that form into something akin to journal entries that hint at secrets, idiosyncrasies, and personal rituals.

"I’m lucky that over the years a lot of great guitar players have performed or recorded my music, but with Spirits I have endeavored to compose, perform, and produce all the tracks. As a child I loved the studio-instrumental albums of layered guitar by legends like Les Paul, Chet Aitkens, and Glen Campbell, and these are remembered here in my own introspective and personally spiritual way. Those albums were often a series of vignettes, each tune suggesting a particular location, mood, or flavor. This album turns that form into something akin to journal entries that hint at secrets, idiosyncrasies, and personal rituals.

In King of Cups, a lap-slide melody is accompanied by an electric guitar track much cooked by custom processing, pedals, and re-amping. For Memory Jug and Pink Cloud, acoustic guitar samples recorded in an oddball tuning are reordered along with other computer-generated sounds and samples into backing tracks. Memory Jug is named for the three-dimensional collage technique involving little objects and talismans embedded to the surface of a jug, memorializing the dead and providing personal items for a journey to the spirit world. An optimistic lead in Pink Cloud is set against a stormier backing track, implying a darker reality than the lead is willing to admit. Longer acoustic samples make for a spare duet with electric guitar in Ghost Flare, named for that artifact of filming in sunlight where concentric circles of light expand and shift diagonally across the frame like thought bubbles.

Cutting and pasting fragments to build a new story also influenced how a series of electric guitar solos were composed. Interspersed throughout the album, these brief snapshots of a state or quality are fragmented and have little repetition (Solace, Acquiescence, Consequence, Clairvoyance, Luminescence, and Severance). Like aphorisms, they are points of no return: effects, outcomes, and conclusions without a story. For Clairvoyance, I made an animation using John Conway’s Game of Life as a point of departure for an abstract drawing fantasy.

In contrast, another group of pieces (Jewel Tree, Spirits, Ground and Harbor) unfold “in their original time” as realized processes. Jewel Tree is a duet for electric guitars, one part using a tremolo technique to generate a glittery surface for an otherwise tumultuous and passionate musical narrative. In Spirits, sustained tones trigger varying tremolos that haunt a polyphonic melody with patterns that play with pacing.

Processed piano samples in Harbor create a rhythm that is neither mechanical nor organic but somehow both to my mind. Harmony projects emotion onto Harbor’s varied, though indifferent, rhythm. Meanwhile long, sustained guitar tones measure both the harmony and the rhythm. The piece makes me think of how captivating vistas are unchanged by the emotional states we bring to them; we self-soothe somehow by viewing a vast space too large to control or fully take in.

The album closes with Ground for five guitars. I think of it as a kind of resolute epilogue. To me, the simple clarity of its form and timbre lifts a veil that enfolds the other pieces.

– Van Stiefel"

credits

released August 27, 2021

Van Stiefel, guitar and production

Recorded at Silvertone Studios, Ardmore, PA

Engineer: Alfred Goodrich

Mastered by: Ryan Streber, Oktaven Audio, Mount Vernon, NY

Cover art by Caroline Lathan Stiefel, to whom these pieces are dedicated

Special thanks to Lew Ledyard

license

tags

about

New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

contact / help

Contact New Focus Recordings

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Report this album or account

If you like Spirits, you may also like: