VARIOUS ARTISTS: Kubla Khan (Textura)

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Posted on Sep 30th 2008 12:34 am

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V/A: Kubla Khan

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Kubla Khan
TEXTURA001
Textura 2008
07 Tracks. 62mins02secs

Already a successful music magazine, Textura are now launching a new imprint, and releasing their 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, inspire 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 are 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 there first release, Textura have 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

The Retail Sectors (MySpace) | Alexander Turnquist (MySpace) | orchestramaxfieldparrish (MySpace) | Ryan Francesconi | RF & Lili De La Mora (MySpace)
Textura

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One Response to “VARIOUS ARTISTS: Kubla Khan (Textura)”

  1. [...] has allowed Textura to be extremely selective in their choices. Following on from the excellent Kubla Khan collection (2008), which collected a handful of songs by The Retail Sector, Ryan Francesconi, [...]