Often, fantasy is seen as a recourse to escapism, as an imaginary distancing that allows a momentary glimpse of personal utopia, an ephemeral feeling ingrained in the thought of someplace other where a negative ‘I’ exists. It is in this negation, however, where fantasy comes back full circle and stops running away, becoming a kind of hope that confronts the here and now with the magnificence of possibility, dislocating what is permitted in favor of a million daydreams and a million pleasures. Like music, it betrays an immateriality that irks all architects of sound, all orderly suppositions of what it must or must not be, rejecting any and all discourses that state its inability to do. It is perhaps under this light that Flying Fantasy by Alexander Turnquist might be heard, having been conceived during a period of hardship where the danger of losing the ability to play guitar was ever-present. With tragedy always around the corner, the album swells with emotion, no longer supported by the grand gestures of virtuosity – always looking forward, always pulling fantasy down to a prowess that has no end – but by a deep connection between composer and music that relies on looking at past, future and present, that understands that what has no end is not the physicality of it but, like almost any fantasy, its fundamental uncertainty, the mystery with which all great art is brimming. Unlike past albums, this music has lost its strength, and it is much more profound for it.
It is also a collaborative effort, and the participation of musicians such as Christopher Tignor enrich what is already a series of amazing arrangements from Turnquist. Uncertainty, after all, leads beyond the individualism of virtuosity, perhaps because its ultimate consequence is a constant memento mori that serves as dissolution of the permitted, turning nods into smiles, smiles into hugs. Flying Fantasy has a tenderness to it that is very different from the artist’s other works, and it often slows down to contemplate ambient electronics and soft drones that appear to lie under the fingerpicking, the ‘reality’ of a type of sound that knows no bounds because it is constantly evading being defined by listeners’ ears. It is here where Turnquist differs from peers like James Blackshaw, in the sense that for Turnquist the transformation implied in virtuosic stream-of-consciousness does not lead to a path that is philosophically akin to minimalism (or, at least, to a conceptual maximalization of it), but to one that is much closer to, of all things, the emotional expanse of post-rock: every note has the potential to fill entire rooms and change them through sheer un-definition. And what is in our times more fantastic, more dramatically prone to utopia than post-rock? What other kind of music bursts most easily through clear-cut hearing by means not of avant-garde notions but less intellectually attractive and infinitely more awkward teenage visions of a life filled with the joy of feeling? I guess that, after all, in the heart of every sickness lies a feverish realization: there is a certain bliss to willing for a different path, one that longs for life while never for a moment denying the inevitability of death. A flying fantasy is a sun-drenched fantasy, and the sun will always burn the wings away.
In the end, I’m convinced that this is Turnquist’s best album to date, and it is the one where he can no longer only be regarded as a guitar player. Sure enough, the playing is great, but the perspective of the whole is what makes it acquire its intention, what gives the fantasy the weight it needs to come back and express all sorts of longings and fulfillments through each movement of the hands, creating harmonies out of the everyday, creating passionate meanings out of something that in principle is only technical. I cannot wait to hear what comes next! (David Murrieta)
released 10 June 2014
Alexander Turnquist, Scott Solter, Christopher Tignor, Marlan Barry, Andrew Hiller, Matthew O'Koren, Pamela Stein & Jeremy Thal
Alexander Turnquist is a guitarist who connects the dots between players like Alex De Grassi and Kaki King, minimalist
composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and fellow innovators like Rhys Chatham and Sonic Youth.
The end result is that in his hands the 12 string acoustic guitar is utterly reinvented as an expressive, orchestral instrument....more