Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kubla Khan

August 2008, textura's premiere label release Kubla Khan is now available from textura - the number one authority on new experimental music on the web.

Kubla Khan is comprised of interpretive musical responses to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment', written in 1797 and first published in 1816.

Featuring original music from orchestramaxfieldparrish titled "Waning Moon Over Sunless Sea' an extended 19 minute improvisation on pedal steel guitar, there are also beautiful, powerful and sublime works from Ryan Francesconi and Lili De La Mora, Alexander Turnquist as well as The Retail Sectors. You can hear an edit of 'Waning Moon Over Sunless Sea' here.

All compositions are exclusive to this release. There are only 500 units printed and undoubtedly will go fast.

Mastered by Mike Fazio.

Available exclusively through textura

REVIEWS (Kubla Khan):

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!


from cyclic defrost:

Ears aware of the quiet precision of sound in a blatantly loud world may have passed their eyes across the reviews in Textura. Akin to Cyclic Defrost, discrete sonic adventurers abound in this Canadian music blog/magazine. It’s first CD release is in a sense a contemplation on Coleridge’s Kubla Khan (or A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment), poetic vision on history, all too resounding in modern times where the promises of ‘the pleasure dome’ lull to sleep its entrants. But the representatives are no slouches, The Retail Sectors (Kentaro Togawa) bookend the compilation with a build to drone and distort intensity and warmth. Alexander Turnquist’s ‘Fragments Vaulted Like Rebounding Hail’ is epic textural melding of his skill with 12 string guitar, toy zylophone, fused with samplers electronic manipulation. Ryan Francesconi 3 tracks standout somehow their direct crisp guitar play convey more; simple bright, deceptively naïve minimal guitar scapes reveal a depth of knowledge alluded. His ‘Green to Red’ with Lili De La Mora vocals holds a delightful whimsy in the center of the compilation. Mike Fazio under the guise orchestramaxfieldparrish presents a pedal steel guitar shimmer of light akin to ambient cathedral works of overly sacred organists. It takes skill and active imagination to stay awake in Kubla Khan’s dream, the players are aware of it being a dream and the entrants asleep, aware of their complicity in the dream state, close examination of technique, awareness and mind activity allows you entrance and exit to this beautific dream palace. With clarity of mind Textura’s debut awakens the mind to the beauty beyond the soporific poetry of Coleridge.

- Innerversitysound

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