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Offroad by Hands On Strings

German guitarists Stephan Bormann and Thomas Fellow prove that a total, even of one plus one, can be vastly greater than its sum. Their playing on Offroad sounds unlike a duo of guitarists. Instead, they develop an orchestral effect throughout a CD that possesses the characteristics of harmonic back-up, rhythmic support, melodic lead, atmospheric suggestions and the rapport of interactive alternating of thematic passages. Moreover, Bormann and Fellow, known within Germany for their rousing performances together and separately, show interest in a wide variety of styles. Even so, they remain consistent in the strength of their attack, their effective conveyance of moods, their timbral richness and their vibrancy of interpretation.

Bormann and Fellow start Offroad on a carefree note, jauntily suggesting the serendipitous nature of exploration where the adventurers create their own paths through a process of discovery. The guitarists’ focused attention to a unified sound and the creation of a feeling of unrestrained leisure eases the listener into the rest of the recording. The contrast of Fellow’s subtly pulsating acoustic guitar with the twang and bending of notes on Bormann’s electric guitar creates just sufficient differentiation of sound to grab the listener’s interest while joining in dynamics and feel for an effective description of the scene they wish to depict. They bring in singer Cristin Claas to wordlessly convey a similar sense of understated fun during Bormann’s simply stated "Childhood Dream" when she emerges from the instrumentally performed first chorus to universally communicate the joy of impulsive singing, childlike in its suggestions, of course.

Bormann and Fellow display their fearless virtuosity on Astor Piazzolla’s "Libertango," lunging into the song’s spirited emotionalism with all the vitality of a group at least three times its size. Similarly, on "Zulu," they suggestively set up anticipation of a memorable performance with the introduction of snapped accents, forceful syncopation and Fellow’s tasteful but propulsive back-up. "Midnight Train," cinematic in its quiet moodiness, rises from a pianissimo non-metered beginning, pensive and calm, to an end of the chorus of large increases in volume as quietude evolves into dramatically chiming conclusion. Obeisance is paid once more to Piazzolla on his "Oblivion," which walks the line between passionate tango delivery and impressionistic rubato as the guitarists investigate the beauty of the piece, no doubt enjoying the sounds produced from the song.

Bormann and Fellow have produced a carefully conceived and experted executed recording that revels in the atmospheric potential of the sound of but two guitars which assume the roles of many more instruments.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hands On Strings
  • CD Title: Offroad
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Ozella Music
  • Tracks: Offroad, Libertango, Manhá de Carnaval, Childhood Dream, Zulu, L’isola Misteriosa, Feria, Oblivion, Midnight Train, Loro, Back Home
  • Musicians: Stephan Bormann (electric, acoustic guitars), Thomas Fellow (acoustic guitar)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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