Review: Stef Ketteringham – More Guitar Arrangements

a2273213502_16Legs and arms are in motion. In fact, I imagine that Stef Ketteringham’s whole body is in motion. This movement is a product of performance. Every strum ripples outward toward the toes and fingertips, which recoil at acoustic dissonance and collapse upon the bass drum. But it works the other way too, with sound fired by kinetic energy. Each flail of limb channelled into its perfect plucked equivalent, turning these semi-improvisations into a precarious rodeo of near-topple, sudden seizure and the sway of pendulum momentum. The transitions from serenity to convulsive attack are too abrupt to feel akin to an emotional narrative. Rather, More Guitar Arrangements goes deeper, resembling instead the internal churn of thoughts and anxieties during times of solitude and quiet: flickers of self-doubt punching holes in otherwise optimistic projections, sudden pangs of excited remembering during the aimless ambles of daydreaming.

My favourite moments are those when the energy is held back for just a moment. Ketteringham allows an acoustic guitar chord to resonate and fall still, before exploding into spasms of scrambling frets and crooked tapping, like the little inner yelps of fear or ecstasy (or both?) that accompany the click of sudden cognizant realisation. Yet these pieces are rife with more incidental stumbles of virtuosity, wriggling away from the temptation to explore a particular chord change for too long, refuting repetition by violently scrambling the path back to the start. I hear Ketteringham’s hands running all over the instrument, fixated far more on sensation than the execution of each individual note. Is it a fear of stillness and stagnation that fires these jolts of life? Like vigorously shaking the body to stem the onset of lethargy? Even when Ketteringham moves away from the visceral immediacy of finger-plucked acoustic – shifting to the crooked, electric-powered conduits of plectrum and amplifier on “Churchgoer” and “Cry And Sing 3” – this life-force still gushes through the distorted scratches and wails of slide. He is always present.