Review: Kevin Hufnagel – Ashland

In Ashland resides the ecstatic relief of contrast; the ability to linger over one syllable for as long as Hufnagel deems necessary, while allowing others to become little skips or faint shadows in around the other utterances. Liberated from the merciless urgency that makes Gorguts so incessantly loud and explosive, Hufnagel is permitted to dance into silence and open space at whatever tempo he sees fit – as such, he is free to indulge in the behaviour and incidents that would otherwise be engulfed in the jaws of sheer volume and catharsis, gazing meditatively into each particle of detail as it dances and glints in the light. Ashland takes great joy in weaving process into product, with fret noise and quivering breaths of concentration forming bold and beautiful shapes on the album’s sparsely illustrated canvas.

He plays as though each note is longingly beckoned for by the one before it, and so gracious is his execution that it’s difficult to envisage any alternative path for these pieces to take, in spite of the intricacy that causes them to constantly weave, snake-like, this way and that. He crafts a spectrum on which the pieces reside at one point or another: at one end is a rattling and percussive attack that jabs in gentle, evenly spaced perforations, while at the other is a miniature waterfall of romantic monologue, feeding loops and hills into constant warm cascades. His ability to tumble so effortlessly up and down the scale – along with the light petals of attack that punctuate each note – gives his playing style a certain harp-esque quality at points, his hands weaving gently back and forth and plucking out the sole truth in a whole scale of possibility.