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CD Feature/ V.A.: "Kubla Khan"

img  Tobias

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 mere five 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 have 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.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Textura

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