textura has released three full-length recordings, Kubla Khan (2008), Esther Marie (2010), and Monuments and Ruins (2012). Physical copies of each can be be purchased directly from textura (using PayPal). In addition, digital copies of all three releases can be purchased by visiting the textura bandcamp site.
To purchase a copy of Monuments and Ruins, simply select the appropriate Shipping Option (the displayed price includes shipping), click on Add to Cart; your purchase will be made safely and securely via PayPal and the CD will be sent to you immediately.
A digital copy of Monuments and Ruins can be purchased at the textura bandcamp site.
TRACK LISTING (click on each track to hear a brief sound clip)
IN LATE 2011, textura approached two of its favourite artists, Ben Chatwin (aka Talvihorros) and Damian Valles, to ask whether the two might be interested in contributing to a split release featuring newly created works by them. Much to our delight, the two, seeing themselves as simpatico artists, agreed and shortly thereafter produced the magnificent original material featured on Monuments and Ruins. What they created amounts to an incredible and immersive listening experience whose detail has been mastered in all its resplendent glory by James Plotkin. Those wishing to draw a connection between the album title and the musical content might hear Chatwin's two-part work as having rendered the majestic character of a monument into aural form, while Valles' piece conjures a vision of ruins.
Talvihorros's From Within A Hollow Body begins with bowed tones panning forebodingly between left and right channels before growing ever more grainy and epic. A sound-world of immense power declares itself as various layers of bowed and plucked guitars swell into a seething mass, until the storm lifts and a gradual lessening of intensity brings about a relative sense of calm. The work's second part unfolds in an elegiac haze as guitars shudder against a smoldering backdrop of soot and grime, before a beautiful series of strums emerge during the final minutes to bring the piece to a graceful close. Valles' Hollow Earth Theory emerges gradually from a swamp of scrapes and flutter like some diseased phantom condemned to roam the blasted remains of unidentified terrain. Gothic and bluesy, the music unspools in a dust-coated stream of piano shadings and grainy drones, before its equally portentous second half finds it dramatically expanding in scale and detail.
With the artists having created such powerful material, it was important that the visual presentation of the recording be as striking, and with that in mind two powerfully evocative photographs by Jürgen Heckel (aka Sogar) were selected to complement the works produced by Chatwin and Valles. textura is proud to be able to showcase the artistry of all involved on this distinctive release.
Tracks 1 and 2 recorded by Ben Chatwin during the winter months of 2011-2012 at home in London, UK using bowed, plucked, and hit acoustic guitar, plucked and prepared electric guitar, bowed and plucked mandolin, viola, and Hohner Pianet; viola on track 1 by Anais Lalange
Track 3 recorded by Damian Valles in November, 2011 at home in The Kawartha Lakes using acoustic and electric guitars, piano, ukulele, AKG C 3000 B, Shure SM57, computer
Talvihorros is the name under which Ben Chatwin issues his guitar-and-electronics works. Numerous techniques are used to coax a myriad of sounds from both acoustic and electric guitars, and home-made and vintage electronic equipment are used to process and manipulate recorded material into dense and dark sound collages that the London, UK-based composer augments with analogue synths, organs, bells, percussion, and static. Talvihorros recordings have been released on Hibernate (2011's Descent Into Delta, 2010's Music In Four Movements) and Benbecula (2009's Some Ambulance), among other labels.
Damian Valles is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist who creates experimental ambient and drone-based soundscapes using solo guitar and with a variety of percussive elements, piano, and field recordings. He also curates the Rural Route series on Standard Form and performs as part of the experimental band, Boars, alongside Alex Durlak and Jeff McMurrich. He has issued several releases in multiple formats (limited CD-Rs, a cassette, two net-label releases, and compilation appearances) with the most recent being the full-length Skeleton Taxa (Drifting Falling, 2011), and his forthcoming LP, Nonparallel (In Four Movements), will be released by Experimedia during 2012.
The Milk Factory selected Monuments and Ruins as its number 3 pick in its 2012 Albums of the Year list; The Liminal selected Monuments and Ruins as its number 33 pick in its 2012 Albums of the Year list.
Foxy Digitalis (Bobby Power), August 22, 2012:
Ben Chatwin's Talvihorros leads the split with a certain classical-tinged post rock, beautifully mixing Godspeed's hopeful dirges with Ben Frost's elegiac despair. Over the course of “From Within a Hollow Body” (split into two roughly 15-minute parts), Chatwin slowly layers sinister chords and crackling touches to paint a mournful painting of overwrought gestures. Heartbreaking stuff. Part Two in particle decays slowly over several minutes, coming immediately after the piece's climax collapses. Talvihorros is venturing some serious ground here. Other acts in the same breed are quick to dwell in static or banal genre pitfalls, but this piece is consciously heading in another direction.
Damian Valles' “Hollow Earth Theory” comprises the other half here with an exercise in absolute minimalism. The piece is high concept, almost coming off like a field recording or found sound. For the first few minutes, Valles methodically sets up his acoustic guitar as though he's just hit record and sat down to warm up. Dark movements and deep tones come out of nowhere, filling in the blank spaces with brooding colors and gestures. Reality begins to shift and your perceptions are altered as slight guitar plucks are processed and blur out of focus. The line between live edits and post-recording edits is completely blurred. Moments of near silence come and go as they please, disregarding the listener's presence. Throughout the remainder of the patiently paced piece, Valles pulls only the most necessary touches of various instruments from his sonic palette for a mesmerizing, ominous drone. Great stuff indeed.
The Milk Factory (Album of the Month) (Bruno Lasnier), June 20, 2012:
Delivering on average one album every couple of years has allowed textura to be extremely selective in its choices. Following on from the excellent Kubla Khan collection (2008), which collected a handful of songs by The Retail Sectors, Ryan Francesconi, Alexander Turnquist, and orchestramaxfieldparrish, inspired by the nineteenth-century poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Kubla Khan, Or A Vision In A Dream. A Fragment, and the equally delightful, if somewhat sparse, album by Canadian duo Mains De Givre, Esther Marie (2010), textura got in touch with London-based experimental guitarist Ben Chatwin, who records as Talvihorros, and Canadian ambient and drone artist Damian Valles, and asked them whether they would consider collaborating on a split release. The result is almost fifty minutes of atmospheric experimentation split almost equally between Chatwin's two-part piece "From Within A Hollow Body" and Valles's "Hollow Earth Theory."
Whilst the two evolve in slightly different spheres, their respective sound worlds have much in common and complement each other rather splendidly here. Both musicians work with a number of instruments, but the primary focus is on guitars, which are used in both raw and treated forms to create the backbone of their individual contributions.
The album opens with solitary streaks of bowed acoustic guitars, but rapidly the space around these fills up with vibrant sonic constellations that Chatwin builds layer upon layer, channelled over an underlying stream of distortions. Although all this pops up at a rapid pace, the melancholic drone of a viola can clearly be heard ebbing and flowing in the background as various plucked instruments echo around as if they were calling out to each other. Occupying much of the first part of the Talvihorros contribution, this wonderfully rich and fluid soundscape slowly drifts away to reveal some of its more delicate components, before the rumbling sound of layered electric guitars exposes the drone formations that populate the underbelly of the piece. The second half of "From Within A Hollow Body" opens under rather sombre skies, with stirring bowed sequences and distorted guitars coagulating into a particularly dense sonic cluster from which eventually emerges lighter sparkles as the dark clouds slowly lifts. Although the space remaining appears desolate, scattered touches of acoustic and electric guitars slowly lead the piece onto a lush pastoral conclusion.
"Hollow Earth Theory" is a decaying tale of inexorable time passing, as seen, it seems, at microscopic level. In the opening minutes of his piece, Valles arranges miniature textures and noises into a pleasant, if somewhat intriguing, sequence, but soon, darker currents pass through, resulting for a moment in much bolder environmental noises. Scraped, brushed, or randomly plucked strings, resonating wood, disjointed piano motifs all combine to convey an image of a slowly disintegrating universe, where chaos and collapse are the most common currencies. At the half-way mark, all these are unexpectedly swallowed by a monolithic drone; its structure, too complex to be unpicked, filters out some processed guitar and piano textures, upon which occasional noises bounce at irregular intervals. The status quo is not maintained for long, however, as guitar motifs, then clusters of noises spurt out from the central drone to bring it back to life for a moment, before it all dies down as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving only a few scratches and a distant piano to counteract the dying drone.
Although Ben Chatwin and Damian Valles each recorded in their respective homes, one in the UK, the other in Canada, they have created two pieces, which, whilst following very different paths, feel surprisingly complementary. Talvihorros's "From Within A Hollow Body" feels more ambitious in scope, whilst Valles's "Hollow Earth Theory" is subject to a much more contrasted progression, but ultimately, both pieces combine into an incredibly refined and evocative album well worthy of attention. 4.7/5
Experimedia (Brad Rose), June 1, 2012:
This new split on the Textura label brings together UK-based composer, Talvihorros (aka Ben Chatwin), and Canadian Damian Valles for a lush set of spacious experimentalism. Talvihorros opens with the strings-and-crunch-laden “From Within A Hollow Body (Part I).” It's a heartbreakingly beautiful piece of work as layer upon layer of cascading sound is built into something massive and overbearing. It is music rife with tension, holding onto the ledge tighter and tighter until there's nothing left to do but let go and free fall into oblivion. “From Within A Hollow Body (Part II)” is like being lost in a black expanse, unable to perceive any depth or passage of time. Enchanted by Chatwin's carefully chosen, scraped-up guitar notes, you flutter through the air, lost in endless space. This is subtley dark, beautiful music. Valles keeps the momentum churning by blowing all of Chatwin's ideas to bits and pieces with “Hollow Earth Theory.” It's the perfect recipe. If Talvihorros built the monument, Valles is immortalizing the ruins. Graveyard dirges of scraped strings and discordant, sporadic piano notes crawl through the black dirt, digging in deeper as they go. The lower the piece gets, the heavier Valles plays his hand. As everything builds to a gloriously organic crescendo in this incredibly detailed piece, Valles smothers the last bit of life out with an ominous drone.
A Closer Listen (Richard Allen), May 23, 2012:
The wonderful textura label produces few releases; the last was Mains de Givre's Esther Marie in 2010. Every disc is a labor of love, and Monuments and Ruins is no exception. The album provides a platform for the work of two highly-regarded artists, whose work here is more complementary than similar. As suggested by the press release, Talvihorros‘ two-part composition sounds like monuments being constructed, while Damian Valles‘ 22-minute track is representative of ruins.
While the current track order makes physical sense (construction followed by deconstruction), a reversal, rising from the sparse to the populated, makes sonic sense. Valles' “Hollow Earth Theory” begins with quiet stirrings, wanderings in the wastelands, guitar notes curiously plucked and strummed like instruments found in debris. The form of the piece isn't evident until the piano moves to the foreground, clearing the path for a sine wave drone. The length of the composition allows the artist to experiment with tone and texture; the final third moves from improvised acoustic guitar to subdued ambience before ending again in crunches.Talvihorros' “From Within a Hollow Body (Part II)” offers a lovely 14 minutes of focused drift. Guitar notes are used like colors on a brush: applied, dipped in water, dried, and applied again. The piece produces simultaneous rest and awareness, settling the spirit without knocking it out. The grinding guitars of the first half are replaced by pointillist passions in the second. When only 2:25 remains, a clear melody finally emerges. In the reshuffled alignment, this sets the stage for the album's most active piece, “From Within a Hollow Body (Part I)”, which immediately introduces a percussive bass drop and melodious, echoed keys. The quickest of the album's pieces to develop, “Part I” adds a fuzzed-out drone before the second minute has passed, a sharp contrast to “Part II”. Strings emerge in the third minute, deepening the emotional impact as they expand stage by stage to occupy the outposts. The track sounds like fulfillment: a monument completed, a flag installed, a dedication held. As the components retreat, reflection sets in; the album has come full circle. The mind resonates with thoughts of kingdoms lost and found.
Fluid Radio (Fred Nolan), May 10, 2012:
London-based composer Ben Chatwin, who records as Talvihorros, is known for his long, stalking movements of infused guitar. His most recent release Descent Into Delta narrates the brain's five-stage retreat from full alertness to deep sleep, and is often cited as the finest album in his catalog. Canadian artist Damian Valles is coming off of an enormous 2011: two albums, two EPs, a short documentary soundtrack, and seven other compilation appearances or collaborations. Valles cites the tactile and immediate Skeleton Taxa as a career highlight, saying: “Some of the tracks have been sitting dormant for months to years, some are reworked tracks from a previous life, and some are fresh out of the box; hints of traditional song compositions intertwined with sound collage that, somehow, seem to fit together to create a cohesive ‘entity' or ‘body'.”
Last year Textura approached the artists regarding a split EP, and the result is the three-part Monuments and Ruins, featuring two original tracks by Chatwin, and one by Valles. In both cases it stands among the best of their work.
It begins with the first act of Chatwin's two-part “From Within A Hollow Body,” a granular, synaptic thing that stacks the rush of guitar manipulations on the echo of chimes and a barely-discernible percussion (the latter two are also processed string, according to the one-sheet, which lists his gear as: “bowed, plucked, and hit acoustic guitar, plucked and prepared electric guitar, bowed and plucked mandolin, viola, and Hohner Pianet”). Somehow referring to this as a terrain or a soundscape doesn't quite get there. This is a slow, savory, and expert piece of composing that will track soil into the bedroom, so bring a change of shoes along. That is, until the exaggerated coda of four minutes lifts us into the ether with the ringing out of effects and Chatwin's signature, galactic drone.
The second part of “Hollow Body” opens with a simpler topography, and less emphasis on the abstract. Relative silence marks the first dozen minutes here, where a scratching, barely-detectable sub-bass is set against more recognizable instrumentation: strummed and plucked guitar, with plenty of space for echo and contrast. The track concludes with a brief, pearlescent, clean-toned riff that might have inaugurated an album by a more conventional artist. A benignly tricky finish.
Valles' contribution is “Hollow Earth Theory,” which begins as a slow crawl out of silence, through the abstractions of found sounds and loosely-sketched instrumentation, toward something a bit more tangible. By the time the guitar drone starts popping with heat, ten minutes of genre-cynical tinkering and the occasional piano note have passed. The second act hints at roots rock, albeit a full-zoom view of the acoustic guitar, where fret noise casts a ten-foot shadow and the percolating of the low-E string will ferment all of the sugar in the room. Valles also seems to have opened a piano and performed it harp-style, so the roar of strings is downright climatic.
There are precious few tracks here, and with all of the bare canvas the album feels much shorter than it is. But don't let the song titles mislead. There is nothing hollow about it. This is an important work by both composers.
Norman Records (Mike), May 08, 2012:
Ooh, this is well tasty. We've got Talvihorros and Damian Valles each chucking in more than 20 minutes of music on this here split CD. On the Talvihorros “side” Ben Chatwin tinkers away on his guitars, mandolin, viola and Hohner Pianet to construct two lengthy and soothing pieces. ‘From Within A Hollow Body (Part I)' opens with ominous, plodding notes, hanging in the air over smooth sheets of organic drone, gradually easing down into a flatter, more rumbly ambience. It's like Nadja playing a Stars of the Lid song. Lovely. The rumbling continues in ‘... (Part II)', with more of a dark ambient soundscape of metallic screeches and gentle, patient melodies for a hazy, mystical chill-out sesh. Towards the end some delay-heavy guitar chimes and twinkles come in for a nice soft landing. More lovely stuff from Chatwin, basically.
Once that's all over we're into Damian Valles's 22-minute epic ‘Hollow Earth Theory', made with guitars, piano, ukulele, computer and microphones. It starts in near silence, just the slightest hint of rumbling...in fact I'm about four minutes in and it's only just got particularly audible, and even now it does kind of sound like there's people moving around downstairs, with occasional string-scrapings and disorienting chimes. It's very detailed, late night ambience with quite a paranoid, skittish feel to it, almost malevolent. It certainly seems like much more of a texture piece than a musical composition, all ominous rumbles and drones which slowly morph into a flat, more trebly orchestra-tuning-up type drone, which is eventually joined by some freeform guitar picking for some dusky new age vibes. Takes a bit of patience to get there, but for late night contemplation through your headphones both contributions here offer mega relaxing times. 4/5
To obtain a copy of Esther Marie, simply select the appropriate Shipping Option, click on Add to Cart; your purchase will be made safely and securely via PayPal and the CD will be sent to you immediately.
A digital copy of Esther Marie can be purchased at the textura bandcamp site.
TRACK LISTING (click on each track to hear a brief sound clip)
MAINS DE GIVRE is a violin-centered soundscaping project involving self-taught experimentalist Eric Quach and classically trained musician Émilie Livernois-Desroches, both of whom call Montreal home. Quach is widely known for the experimental ambient work he's produced under his thisquietarmy alias and also is the founder of the instrumental-shoegazer band Destroyalldreamers. Livernois-Desroches has played violin since she was seven years old and been teaching since 2003. She has been a part of various chamber music and symphonic orchestras, and performs with a wide variety of bands in styles ranging from pop to medieval to metal. While her previous best-known project was the melodic folk-black metal band Blackguard (formerly known as Profugus Mortis), Mains de Givre is her most experimental project to date.
Quach and Livernois-Desroches first crossed paths in 2003 while playing with their respective bands Destroyalldreamers and Sugarshack as part of the emerging post-rock scene in Montreal. Following each other's musical achievements over the years, their mutual respect for each other grew until they found themselves six years later embarking on a studio collaboration initially intended to be part of a thisquietarmy release. As their personal and musical chemistry grew, their newfound closeness turned the collaboration into an official long-term project they christened Mains de Givre (frost hands) after a nickname that had been given to Émilie (émilie-aux-mains-de-givre) by her bandmates.
Mains de Givre's debut album, Esther Marie, originates from material recorded at the duo's first jam session in the spring of 2009. The recording opens with the very first notes the two played together, notes that evoke an eerie sadness that permeates the album and characterizes the mood of their collaboration. With the violin as the lead instrument, Quach's guitar playing is restrained yet also tense, as he generates dark, slowly evolving drone atmospheres alongside subtle, looped-based patterns that swirl within the lower end of the sound spectrum.
The Silent Ballet (Joseph Sannicandro), June 3, 2010:
If this Montreal-based duo might sound a bit familiar to regular readers of the site, it is no doubt due to the characteristic contributions of Eric Quach. Quach's other projects have received a fare amount of positive coverage around here at The Silent Ballet, notably for his shoegazing post-rock outfit destroyalldreamers and the free-form guitar drones of thisquietarmy. However, unlike Quach's other collaborations, like last year's excellent A Picture of a Picture with Aidan Baker, Mains de Givre is an entity separate from Quach's other works (as evidenced by the spaces between words and capitalized letters in the band's name, for instance). Quach originally intended to bring in violinist Émilie Livernois-Desroches for a brief collaboration, but one listen to the result will convince any listener that the need for a wholly distinct project is justified. The result, Esther Marie, is a beautiful, haunting journey through swirling textures and moods, painting the now familiar ambient soundscapes with dreary titles; but the result deserves special attention, in no small part due to Livernois-Desroches's poignant playing.
The Milk Factory (Bruno Lasnier), June 2, 2010:
The project of Montreal-based violinist Emilie Livernois-Desroches and experimental guitarist Eric Quach, Mains De Givre is the first signing of the label set up by Canadian magazine Textura. Both already respected musicians in their own right, Quach for his ambient work as thisquietarmy and with instrumental rock band Destroyalldreamers amongst others, classically trained violinist Livernois-Desroches for projects spanning a wide range of genres, from metal to folk, the pair met over seven years ago while playing in two different bands, but only began working together a year ago. The result, Esther Marie, is a stunning collection of deeply atmospheric and dark experimental compositions.
Built from early jam sessions, and assembled into four striking pieces, each with its individual tone, Esther Marie progresses especially slowly, as guitar and violin layers, processed into exquisite textures, become entangled and appear weighed down by their own gravity. There is a natural flow running through the whole album, especially as there is no clear demarcation between the first two tracks, as the vast clouds of distortions generated by Quach freely stretch from "Un Chœur D'Ames En Detresse" into "Le Cercle Des Mœurs," and while the last two tracks are more distinct, they are carved from similarly dense soundscapes, as to permanently enforce the quietly abrasive and sombre nature of the record.
Indeed, nothing is quite as gentle or peaceful as the first impression could lead to think. The pair's chosen name, Mains De Givre, which translates as frost hands, signals a somewhat glacial approach, reinforced by the often gothic track titles – "Un Chœur D'Ames En Detresse" (A Choir of Distressed Souls), "Le Cercle Des Mœurs" (The Circle Of Morals), "Cauchemar Noir Et Rouge" (Red and Black Nightmare) or "Larmes Sanglantes" (Bloody Tears). Equally, the intensity and intricacy of Quach's soundscapes are totally compelling, his heavily processed layers of distortions, manipulated further to ebb and flow over the course of a piece, proving particularly gritty and abrasive throughout. This is tempered slightly by the haunting sound of the violin, but these ethereal brushes also contribute to giving this record its unreservedly sombre quality. "Un Chœur D'Ames En Detresse" opens with a few toll-like scattered guitar notes upon which the violin rapidly comes to cast a timid melody. As the track progresses, the backdrop fills up with increasingly harsher stabs of guitar until the sound becomes hazier, and continues to do so through the three remaining pieces, gaining particular density in the second half of "Cauchemar Noir Et Rouge," and again toward the end of "Larmes Sanglantes," as the violin appears to struggle to extricate itself from the sonic mass.
Mains De Givre work from a relatively sparse set of sounds, but the extremely refined and sophisticated layering that characterises the four tracks here gives Esther Marie an incredible weight and contributes greatly to cast its deeply atmospheric mood. With this, Emilie Livernois-Desroches and Eric Quach have created a truly magnificent record, which should be missed under no pretext. 5/5
tokafi (Tobias Fischer), April 30, 2010:
Cyclic Defrost (Joshua Meggitt), April 13, 2010:
Esther Marie is the debut by Montreal's Mains de Givre (“frost hands”), a duo comprising Eric Quach on guitar and electronics and violinist Émilie Livernois-Desroches. Quach's background is in shoegaze and ambient productions, while Livernois-Desroches's is in classical; their respective sounds and approaches combine beautifully to produce gloomy neo-classical drones strongly reminiscent, in mood, of fellow Montreal-ers Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Quach builds up the background, creating dense walls of tonal feedback over which Livernois-Desroches improvises, like an updated take on the violin sonata. She favours long, slow arcs aching with sadness, their strident lines well-suited to Quach's whining grey hiss. The four long pieces take similar approaches, slowly unfolding patterns marked by adjustments in feedback timbre and varied instrumental figures. ‘Un Choeur d'Armes en Destresse' opens with a circling guitar throb, cracking apart as the piece progresses, the violin dancing mournfully over its remains. In ‘Les Cercle des Moeurs' Quach sculpts the feedback into an airy, buoyant twinkle, shimmering like stars beside lower, cello-like string patterns. The bleak squall of ‘Cauchmar Noir et Rouge' evokes both Angelo Badalamenti and My Bloody Valentine, while closer ‘Larmes Sanglantes' works a choppy loop into distorted noise, leaving the final, distraught notes to the lone violin.
Fluid Radio (Daniel Crossley), April 5, 2010:
textura is best known for its impressive online web site offering fresh reviews and insights into some of the finest experimental music currently available.
Little is known, however, about the textura label that sees its second full release waiting in line from Montreal's Mains de Givre…
The upcoming album Esther Marie manages to assemble and capture everything that I look for in experimental/abstract recordings, from the haunting violin structures that Émilie Livernois-Desroches so effortlessly orchestrates through to the droned-out feedback of Eric Quach's electric guitar.
The excursion of sound that you are invited to travel and investigate has a rather dark and eerie feel to it, mainly due to Quach's effects of processing harsh grainy synthesis patterns and distorted riff chords that are both compelling and also at times deeply atmospheric in the darkest sense of the word.
The classically trained stringed arrangements that flow from Émilie's violin are the perfect partner, however, as graceful patterns fuse together flawlessly creating a deep sense of hope and light cutting through the impending gloom. This is what makes the whole Esther Marie experience so intoxicating, and provides the listener with a great depth of resonating experiences not like anything I have heard or witnessed for some time.
Looking set for a release this coming May, Esther Marie is unquestionably going to be a successful release and will bring Mains de Givre the accolades and recognition they so richly deserve. 9/10
To purchase a copy of Kubla Khan, simply select the appropriate Shipping Option, click on Add to Cart; your purchase will be made safely and securely via PayPal and the CD will be sent to you immediately.
A digital copy of Kubla Khan can be purchased at the textura bandcamp site.
TRACK LISTING (click on each track to hear a brief sound clip)
1. The Retail Sectors: “Precarious Awakening” (5:51)
FIRST-YEAR UNIVERSITY students enrolled in English Literature 101 invariably read Wordsworth, Byron, and Keats, but the poetic work that likely lodges itself in memory most of all is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's “Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment,” and not just because the author himself claimed it was inspired by an opium-induced dream. Written in 1797 and first published in 1816, the poem includes imagery so vivid it lends the work an hallucinatory quality that sets it apart from all other Romantic poetry, and the opening lines alone can entrance even the most resistant student:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
Some may recognize Xanadu from Orson Welles' Citizen Kane as the name of the immense estate that Charles Foster Kane built for his second wife Susan Alexander (who came to regard it as nothing more than a fortress of solitude from which she had to escape). Needless to say, we at textura were captivated by the poem when we first read it all those years ago—so much so that when we decided to establish a textura label we immediately thought of Coleridge's poem and its rich potential as an inspirational midwife for musical work. And so it came to pass that four stylistically-diverse artists—Alexander Turnquist, The Retail Sectors, orchestramaxfieldparrish, and Ryan Francesconi & Lili De La Mora—contributed their abundant artistry to textura's premiere release in the form of unique interpretive responses to the poem.
Some of the artists drew upon the majestic spirit of Coleridge's poem while others used a particularly evocative passage as a conceptual springboard. The Retail Sectors bookends the hour-long recording with two epic samplings of Kentaro Togawa's signature instrumental rock. In the first, “Precarious Awakening,” intricate guitar and bass lines unite for an elegant pas de deux as the piece moves through a series of ever-intensifying climaxes; the ponderous second, “The Ever-Changing Scene,” brings the recording to a graceful close but not before exposing the listener once more to Togawa's smoldering attack. At the recording's center, Ryan Francesconi & Lili De La Mora present the wistful and alluring vocal ballad “Green To Red” while Ryan frames it with two lovely guitar meditations, “Parables” and “Deep Rivers Run Quiet.” The first, the more uptempo of the two, spotlights the crystalline and rather harp-like sound of his deft acoustic picking; true to its title, the second adopts a more ruminative mien. In contrast to those song-structured pieces, Alexander Turnquist and orchestramaxfieldparrish (Mike Fazio) contribute long-form soundscapes that are simultaneously immersive and transportive. In the seventeen-minute “Fragments Vaulted Like Rebounding Hail,” Turnquist uses 12-string acoustic guitar, toy xylophone, samplers, and laptop to produce an initially turbulent and ultimately peaceful galaxy of rustling static and flicker, while Fazio's heavily-processed pedal steel guitar creates a celestial realm of shimmering streams, slow-burning tones, and glistening waves in “Waning Moon Over Sunless Sea.”
Despite the artists' stylistic differences, Kubla Khan's admittedly disparate parts coalesce to deliver a resplendent listening experience that feels immensely satisfying and whole.
Ryan Francesconi & Lili De La Mora
The Retail Sectors
"Green To Red" by Ryan Francesconi & Lili De La Mora
tokafi (Tobias Fischer), October 16, 2008:
Most people think of music journalism as merely passing judgement. Canadian print magazine textura, however, has taken a completely different route. Far more interested in providing information than doling out meaningless ratings and focusing on essential lines of artistic development instead of short-lived phenomena, the Ontario-based publication has established itself as a source of inspiration for anyone with an inclination for sound art and experimental electronica—and as a serious threat to purses incapable of handling all the compulsive CD orders resulting from regular reading.
If the editorial team has now decided to enter the supposedly saturated label market, this neither comes as a big surprise nor as a random act dictated by a fleeting fancy. The impulse of finding out about interesting new artists on paper and the desire to listen to their music are closely connected, after all. And since well-reasoned subjectivity has thankfully replaced cool, market-oriented pseudo-objectivity in deciding on cover stories and review coverage, the case for a magazine to feature the same acts both through stories and physical releases is clear: artists and media have turned into partners, mutually supporting each other and shaping overlapping scenes and communities based on shared aesthetics and a need for uncompromising sounds.
As Kubla Khan proves, predominantly personal preferences need not contradict coherent creative concepts either. Admittedly, the artist roster for this four-way split draws a decidedly diverse line-up from textura's editorial innards: typographically nightmarishly-titled orchestramaxfieldparrish, Japanese one-man Post-Rock project The Retail Sectors, ambitious folk duo Ryan Francesconi and Lili De La Mora as well as New York'ean sound scuptor Alexander Turnquist have all been featured on their pages before. But two distinct selection criteria prevent the album from falling into arbitrariness.
On the one hand, there's the obvious outward leitmotif of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's eponymous, drug-induced hallucinatory poem. Its lines represent a point of departure for the participating composers, whose stylistic differences are suddenly carefully aligned by the joint goal of approximating the lyrical mystery of these verses through sound. In fact, the musical distinctions serve to sharpen one's perception of the words more than a more smoothly-styled sampler ever could: The Retail Sectors' plaintive minimalism and elated ecstasy and the shimmering, beautifully brittle love letters of Francesconi/De La Mora detect constant change in Coleridge's verbal magic, while Turnquists's epic spatial ruminations and the orchestramaxfieldparris's darkly peaceful and amorphously floating 18-minute wonder-world underline its enigmatic, ambivalently anthemic nature.
Less pronounced and yet equally essential is the fact that all of the artists involved use the Guitar as their main compositional tool. In the textural sections of the album, this factor sometimes dies down to a mere echo of its original timbre or to short, fragmented figments of strummed strings or melodic picking—but it always remains a clearly audible, distinctly recognizable element. Kubla Khan therefore not only allows readers an enlightening juxtaposition of some of their favorite projects, but also offers a glimpse of the very plurality of a scene all too often lazily summarized under the tag of “experimental Guitar.”
Already, the poles of this simplified term have started moving towards each other, driven by their inherently similar approaches and fruitfully pollinated by their idiosyncrasies. It is the task of the media to uncover these trends and to establish links between seemingly unconnected camps. By boldly following the latter ideal and ignoring the traditional allocation of tasks for magazines, labels and artists, textura has taken another step in establishing music journalism as a positive rather than a judgmental force—and in presenting themselves as a fully-fledged crossbreed of record company and print mag.
The Milk Factory (Bruno Lasier), September 30, 2008:
Already a successful music magazine, textura is now launching a new imprint, and releasing its first album. Kubla Khan takes its name from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's classic nineteenth-century poem Kubla Khan, Or A Vision In A Dream, A Fragment, which was, according to Coleridge, inspired by an opium-induced dream. The poem also serves as a thread to the seven tracks featured on the album, as each song takes a particular aspect of the poem and is built as a response to it, or an interpretation of it, by the respective artists.
Four very different acts have taken on the challenge and brought their own musical vision to the project, from the expensive guitar-laden dense rock of The Retail Sectors and the vast sonic stretches of orchestramaxfieldparrish to the delicate folk flourishes of Seattle-based Ryan Francesconi, who contributes two solo tracks here plus one with vocalist Lili De La Mora, and the exquisite sound assemblages of New York's Alexander Turnquist. The focus of the album is therefore very much centred on experimental guitar work in one form or another, and while the scopes of the artists involved vary greatly, there is a surprising impression of consistency throughout Kubla Khan.
The album is bookended by compositions from Japanese artist and Symbolic Interaction label head Kentaro Togawa, who single-handedly spearheads The Retail Sectors. "Precarious Awakening," which opens, and "The Ever-Changing Scene," which concludes, are in many ways sister tracks, each building up momentum from originally spacious and crystalline formations, where shimmering guitars draw gentle shapes over an increasingly potent drum section, especially on the former. Little by little, the compositions gain in riches and depth until Togawa pushes into more distorted and altogether less clearly defined territories. On "Precarious Awakening," the distortions are abrasive and acidic, but it is a much more mysterious and haunting cloud of noise that temporarily erupts on the latter part of "The Ever-Changing Scene" and puts a very final touch to the album.
In between these two electric discharges are much more delicate, complex and ethereal pieces, first with Alexander Turnquist's complex sonic architectures on the epic "Fragments Vaulted Like Rebounding Hail" which, in the space of just over seventeen minutes, shatters acoustic instrumentation, interferences and processed electronics and found sounds into textured wallpapers which morph and change appearance throughout while remaining almost static. At first, Turnquist applies a finely detailed mechanical setting, but as layer upon layer of sound is added, and the reverb grows considerably, the piece becomes much more monolithic and rigid in appearance. Yet, there is a constant flow of activity just below the drone glaze of the surface which maintains the momentum throughout the piece. orchestramaxfieldparrish proposes the equally epic and dense "Waning Moon Over Sunless Sea" which shows a much more electric reading of quite similar ambiences. Yet, Mike Fazio creates here a wonderfully oneiric piece which takes shape very progressively into vast swathes of processed guitars. Unlike Turnquist, Fazio never drastically changes sonic setting here, and while strips of darker matter rise occasionally in the latter part of the track, the overall progression is almost imperceptible, yet it is very much real and tints the piece with rich undertones.
The three shorter middle tracks come courtesy of Seattle's Ryan Francesconi. His delicate acoustic pieces contrast greatly with the rest of the album. "Parables" is wonderfully light and airy. The feather-light melody is surprisingly complex and detailed, and actually seems to develop on a multitude of levels at once. This is also a characteristic of "Deep River Run Quiet," but the piece is more introspective and emotional. On "Green To Red," Francesconi teams up with Lili De La Mora, with whom he released the rather lovely Eleven Continents album earlier this year. Once again, the piece is somewhat reflective, but Lili's voice gives a much warmer and impressionist relief to Francesconi's delicate wanderings.
With its first release, textura has certainly created an impressive collection which reaches far beyond the realm of usual compilations to actually create a true narrative throughout. While the musicians featured come from somewhat diverse horizons, they meet here on common grounds and, while retaining their own identity, manage to contribute to the overall mood. Only 500 copies of Kubla Khan have been made available, and it would be a shame to miss it! 4/5