There are precious few musicians in metal whose ardor for expression extends far beyond the reaches of extreme music. Kevin Hufnagel is one of them. As the guitarist of the underrated instrumental prog-metal act Dysrhythmia (one of my favorite live acts when I was living in Philly), Hufnagel tied up rhythm and crunch into complex gordian knots; with Byla, his duo project with Dysrhythmia/Behold...the Arctopus/Krallice's Colin Marston, he unspooled them into beautiful sheets of abstract guitar textures.
The all-acoustic Songs for the Disappeared focuses on a side of Hufnagel's musical personality far removed from prog and metal, but its exploratory spirit nestles snugly between the opposite poles of his previous work. "Hunter/Hunted" and "Insects Will Tell" thrust us into brambles of clashing timbres and odd, prepared guitar tunings, reminiscent of the pensive acoustic experiments that Nels Cline often drops into his albums. "Mystery Sender" and "Days Half-Remembered" clear the brush for cracked classical arpeggios and artfully picked harmonics. Most Byla-like are "Night in Reverse" and "Will They Find Me." Here processing and Echoplex loops unite Hufnagel's acoustic guitars into walls, waterfalls, skies.
Songs for the Disappeared works because its beauty never resorts to sentimentality. It's loaded with surprises and still calming. This is a guitarist's album, created by someone who's both in total control of his instrument and in awe of its myriad possibilities. Hufnagel writes with layers and dimensions, and there's also a rich melodicism that can be appreciated by all. Intoxicating stuff.
Buy:Amazon (digital only)