My mom brought me this album when she visited me last week. (No, my mother does not have strange 12-string guitar obsessions or taste for independent music. Although that would be awesome. A publicist sent Alexander Turnquist's 5-song EP, Hallway of Mirrors, to my previous address.) I guess it had been in Cleveland for a while now. Last week, I put the album in my 6-CD stereo in my car. I was flipping around today, trying to goad myself off the new My Morning Jacket album for a hot second.
Is goad a word? Let's pretend it is and move on.
This instrumental EP is absolutely mind-blowing in the most calming sense. It's the kind of album that screams out to you when you're driving home from work at 11pm on pitch black highways and needing to space out after listening to police scanners for 8 hours. (Wait, that's just me? Oh, right. You have normal jobs and/or are students.)
Hallway of Mirrors sparkles with cinematic greatness. (Greatness in the sense of large and masterful, not Tony the Tiger "they're great"-ness.) Every song here evokes an almost overpowering feeling. The odd thing is the first adjective that came to my mind, before I even knew the EP's title, was sparkling. It's very organic sounding but also quite ornate.
The first song, "Running Towards," is curious, almost alien sounding. Sparkling spiders and cobwebs that shimmer in the night. The title track is one of those songs that makes you fantasize about having your own soundtrack. You know what I mean? Where you're like, "YES! This is the music that will follow me around for a day while someone makes a film about how tragic/brilliant/screwed up/dramatic my life is." In this case, the music has this elegance to it, yet a cluttered claustrophobia that puts you slightly on edge. I imagine myself floating around with my nose slightly turned up like a Victorian girl or smiling with a slight arrogance. (Not sure where I'm getting this impression - I swear the music is shaping it - because right now I'm recovering from surgery and my left eye is droopy and I feel anything but elegant and arrogant.)
And get this -- track 3, "Spherical Aberrations," actually made me feel like I was living on the prairie, on my way to enduring a very difficult task, such as carrying two huge buckets of water up a large hill on my way to telling the village elder that all the children are dying of malaria. (wtf? i know right?) But seriously, you have to listen to this song, and you'll understand. These songs put you into a story that you didn't even know was in your brain. Why else would I be having prairie fantasies at 12:15 on Friday morning?
Alright, so you're sick of my stories and you wanna know what this music actually sounds like? I can't explain it. Turnquist plays a 12-string guitar which is constantly being picked over like the knocked over contents of a pinata at your little cousin's birthday party. His fingers must literally be flying. And there are slight chimes that he's weaving melodically through the songs. And violin or some other string instruments adding emotion and texture to the seamless yet nonsensical compositions. No percussion, just this alien sound.
Wait. Is Turnquist a one man band? Let's google this. (I'm being very unprofessional tonight.)
I found this:
Like James Blackshaw, Jack Rose, Glenn Jones, etc, this could roughly be described as “raga” guitar, with its long, modal compositions and hypnotic overtone play.
But what in the world does that even mean? I'm not a guitar prodigy over here! Time to turn to Wikipedia.
Alexander Turnquist (born 1988 in Idaho) is an American guitarist and composer. He has released original albums on the VHF record label as well as limited released titles on the Kning Disk imprint and Textura record label. Turnquist's has had comparisons to Guitarists Jack Rose, Alex De Grassi, Kaki King, and James Blackshaw as well as contemporary composer Phillip Glass.
Turnquist's First widely released album "Faint at the Loudest Hour" (VHF Records 2007) was given high marks with an 8.2 in the Popular music review website Pitchfork . His Second release with the VHF Records label "As the Twilight Crane Dreams in Color" was named the #6 out of The Silent Ballet top 50 Albums of 2009 .
Crap! Pitchfork found him before me! D'oh. Oh well. This guy rules. He's younger than me and he massages the guitar like it's a freakin labrador retriever. (Not sure what I mean by that, so if you do, I'm sorry.) You should check him out. (P.S. Check out the number of grammatical mistakes in that Wikipedia entry.) Goodnight.