VA: Air Texture II (curated by loscil and Rafael Anton Irisarri)
Air Texture

Proving once again how immeasurably rich and flexible the ambient genre can be, the Air Texture series' sophomore release presents work by twenty-two producers as selected by curators loscil (Scott Morgan) and Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below, Orcas). The wide range of stylistic directions associated with the genre is well-represented by those involved.

The loscil disc includes contributions from artists associated with kranky and 12k, with many of them heavy on texture and atmosphere and in the individual artist's customary style: “Naimina,” for example, distills Chris Herbert's micro-textured ambient drone style into a single track, while Morgan's own atmospheric contribution, “Else,” is representative of his loscil style, if in a perhaps slightly more forceful form (the central section especially) than usual. At the album's start, Brian McBride sets the bar extremely high with “At a Loss,” a typically gorgeous and luminescent piano-and-strings setting by the Stars of the Lid member, which Marcus Fischer follows with “A Fifth Season,” a prototypical 12k-styled meditation rooted in guitar, electronics, and field recordings. Some of Morgan's selections seem to emanate out of a West Coast fog that often envelopes the Vancouver-based producer's own recordings. Perhaps the foggiest is Strategy's “Frog City,” whose musical elements seem almost engulfed by a dense, dub-wise mass of combustion and shimmer. The longest piece on disc one, “Before Sunsets,” is also one of the strongest, perhaps because Solo Andata develops the track's serene mood so patiently and with such attention to detail. In this masterfully executed setting, near-subliminal instrument sounds—guitar plucks, bowed strings, etc.—surface within a low-level mass of crackle and hum for ten sustained and delicately balanced minutes. Rob Bridgett's “Field 3” distances itself from the others in being a predominantly field recordings-based piece, dominated as it is by rainswept turbulence with thunder adding to the drama. Even more anomalous is Mitchell Akiyama's “Dirge for the Canon,” which uses church organ as a vehicle for the first disc's most aggressive explorations.

Irisarri's half opens promisingly with Marcus Fjellström's “The Eroding,” which makes good on its “Fairytale Music 3” subtitle in the mysterious spectral ambiance that's generated by its crackled-drenched symphonic arrangement. Irisarri's own contribution to the project, “Black Days Follow Me Around,” is a melancholy ambient-classical setting for piano, strings, and electronics, and its lead is followed in slightly different form by some of the others. Library Tapes is represented by a pretty, piano-laden setting of his own (“Och natten andades redan under träden”), while a piano arpeggio is faintly audible within a haze of ambient vapours in Eluvium's “Sleeper.” Brock Van Wey's celestial bvdub track, “Surrender To Your Cold Embrace,” provides a grand epic outro to the release, while Kyle Bobby Dunn's “La Passerelle de ses yeux,” perhaps the most striking piece in Irisarri's collection, presents a beautifully understated bit of aural poetry in the producer's softly glimmering style. An occasional setting, such as Lissom's “Hollow of Winter,” subscribes to a textural ambient style of the kind one might associate with the Hibernate label; the odd man out, so to speak, in this context is a blurry ambient-dub exercise by Mokira called “I Love You Pipecock.” The second half also includes a field recordings-heavy piece by Sawako (“Hovering”) plus stellar contributions from Simon Scott (“Modena”), Lawrence English (“Cooperative Drift”), and Benoît Pioulard (a vocal-less meditation “If I Could Possibly Tell the Difference, I Wouldn't Care Anyway”). As should be patently obvious by now, there's a wealth of material included on the 141-minute release, and it's certainly a solid enough sequel to the first in the series, itself overseen by curators bvdub and Andrew Thomas.

June 2012