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Keith Knudson, Firedance (CD, 39:51); Hollenden HLDN-0010, 1998
P.O. Box 18129
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118-0129

        Guitarist Keith Knudson's Firedance is a minimalistic montage 
of short pieces. Overall, it's mood music, I'd say, although the two 
longest cuts, "Fields" and "Contemplation," are showcases for 
Knudson's classically influenced fingerpicking. He cites J.S. Bach, 
Yes, Tangerine Dream, and Michael Hedges as influences, and those 
influences are all represented, perhaps a bit too obviously. The 
driving pulse and low-tuned bass strings of "Six Eight" are Hedges 
through and through, and in "Contemplation" we hear a figure several 
times that sounds a bit too close to the intro of Yes's "And You and 
	There are some nice contrapuntal moments on the record, like 
on "Midnight Shelling." But overall, the production is a bit too 
do-it-yourself for what this music wants to be. The atmospheric 
pieces make use of phase shifting, backwards tape effects, and plenty 
of delay, but these tools stand out too nakedly. You know exactly 
what they are - there's no mystery. The left-right panning on 
"Stalker from the Void" is elementary, and it's downright irritating 
on the album's closer, "Descent." Knudson is ambitious about creating 
big sonic textures, but there are too many seams in what he's laid 
down here. You can see behind the curtain.
	Compositionally and conceptually, as well, the record lacks 
coherence. Three out of eleven tracks exceed the seven minute mark 
and one other is three minutes and change, but the rest are less than 
two minutes long. I'm not advocating length for its own sake, but the 
radical variation in song length gives the program a jumpy feel. It's 
also over before you know it. "Contemplation," in particular, lacks a 
strong structure; it's a suite of many parts, but the segues are 
abrupt and don't really gel. There's some nice playing throughout, 
but it doesn't exactly feel like a composition.
	Knudson is on his way toward something, but it's not fully 
realized on this CD. He has a lot of room to grow, and I hope he'll 
show more of his potential on his next outing.        ~ David R. Adler

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