Alexander Turnquist
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Alexander Turnquist

Hudson, New York, United States | INDIE

Hudson, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Avant-garde


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"Top 50 albums of 2009"

If the album’s title is any indication, Alexander Turnquist has crafted a very dynamic poem of dreamful instrumentation; horizontal simplicity intertwines with vertical complexity in ways that recall the workings of the mind at rest, a permanent harmony of acoustic neurotransmission bristling with small, but enormously significant events in the form of short keys, violin, and cello interventions. The twelve-string guitar functions as the bloodstream of this impressionistic system, taking its textures and minimalist developments forward, backward, sideways, and everywhere in between. Like both a system and a poem, the movements in this music are rhythm and harmony-based, a continuous flow of ideas made in precise short movements that gradually build a greater whole - a whole that is one of this year’s best, one of those albums that is a practically must-listen regardless of musical preference. (David Murrieta) - The Silent Ballet

"The Silent Ballet"

Score: 7/10

The young Alexander Turnquist has been a TSB favorite for most of his recording career, has appeared on a TSB compilation, and has recently been honored with dual Band of the Week and Track of the Week accolades. Turnquist’s 12-string work has landed him justified comparisons to James Blackshaw, whose own latest album was released only a month ago. But while Blackshaw has settled in to a certain sound and timbre, Turnquist is still finding his way. This is somewhat exciting, because we don’t yet know what to expect from the composer, but it may also prove to be a bit frustrating to finicky fans, who decide that they enjoy one type of Turnquist and not the other.

2007’s Faint at the Loudest Hour was notable not only for Turnquist’s guitar picking, but for the insertion of drone, fuzz, and crackle, which pranced merrily on the outskirts of his compositions, only occasionally breaking into the inner circle. These influences are absent on the latest effort, which is probably a good thing – electronic enhancements tend to have a brief shelf life – but this also robs Twilight Crane of the element of surprise. Follow-up “We Are Magnets!” (from The Silent Ballet Volume XI) was a more piano-heavy venture, notable for the way in which Turnquist’s piano playing actually imitated his guitar work – a brave, difficult, and ultimately rewarding emulation.

The piano is still present on Twilight Crane, although it is used sparingly: single notes serving as punctuation, rather than as melody. The vibraphone and glockenspiel also make appearances, and cello and violin are added by Marlan Barry and Christopher Tignor. Contrary to expectations, these sprinkled toppings do not make Twilight Crane an orchestral album; a little goes a long way, but a lot might have been preferred. Instead, the three tracks are built around Turnquist’s 12-string work, which is impressive in speed and dexterity but suffers from a lack of dynamic range. “Statues in the Dark – Shadows Collide” uses the piano and glockenspiel to keep the beat, while the guitar keeps plugging along. From time to time, additional strings appear in the background – blink and you’ll miss them, as they are low in the mix – but the track would have been greatly aided had Turnquist taken a break and allowed them to shine forth. Sixteen minutes is too long a time to go without silence, soft parts, or slowing down. (There is a brief break at around the nine-minute mark, but strangely, this break seems but a placeholder, as the music here is less interesting than that of the parts surrounding it; and what seems like a break in the thirteenth minute is actually the beginning of the wind-down).

The same problem plagues “Dancing in Borealis – Ribbons of Vivacity,” which possesses nearly the same timbre and tempo as its predecessor. The one-note piano motif is replaced by a two-note piano motif, while the strings have grown reticent. The guitar work is again stellar, especially when Turnquist branches into counter-rhythms, but the chorus arrives a bit too frequently for a ten-minute song. The vibraphone shows up a bit late, as if it had received the wrong directions, and, again, there is no distinctive break. Many do enjoy this sort of thing – Twilight Crane is, after all, an album of patterns and impressions rather than one of songs and hooks, and as such has much in common with the longer works of Mountains – but Mountains would be less likely to close an album with the stopping of play, as Turnquist does here, than by choosing to end with form: a climactic or descending moment.

Opening track “The REM Cycle – Dream Phase” would have been a better closer, because it addresses all of the above concerns, and as such is the album’s strongest track. The piece begins tentatively, with sporadic strums separated by silence; each note hangs in the ether and is allowed to dissipate before the next begins. Slowly, the space between notes lessens, until at the two-minute mark, Turnquist turns to his strong suit. The other instruments are gradually added until they are playing together at the seven-minute mark; and two minutes later, everything changes. Once again, at 9:08, all sound stops; and when it begins anew, it is with much more restraint: fewer strings are plucked, and the tempo changes completely. Soon we are in the realm of marked ambience, with the guitar taking a back seat to the keyboards, the last obvious solo note landing at 10:54, followed by a recessed note at 11:02, with a full seven-and-a-half minutes to go. This extended passage, reminiscent of Celer, could serve as a track in its own right, but works even better connected to the prior, busier segment.

Twilight Crane is a step sideways, rather than a step forward: the sound of a composer testing his wings. I expect a long and lucrative career for Turnquist, whose may find, if he trusts his collaborators and extends the dynamic range of his compositions, that his best work lies in the not-so-distant future.

-Richard Allen - The Silent Ballet


Well, here comes another one of those Takoma-inspired solo acoustic guitar albums. It's getting increasingly difficult to talk about the genre with any sort of meaning nowadays given that the spectrum of sounds within this particular school tend to be so heavily constricted. Of course, there are leading lights who mark themselves out as singular talents: Sir Richard Bishop, Jack Rose and James Blackshaw being the big, obvious trinity of contemporary acoustic virtuosos. While each of those players has been successful in stamping out their respective voices on the instrument, there remains a large number of lesser known players operating in the same field who get wrongfully lost in the crowd. It's understandable as to why that might be - how many post-Fahey open-tuned fingerpickers does your record collection need? Well, Alexander Turnquist certainly has his merits. Although his technique slightly lacks the evenness and effortless fluency you'd hear from Rose or Blackshaw, he more than compensates with his impassioned, often aggressive assault on the strings. 'Mime Fight' proves to be especially revelatory, the guitarist taking time out from more run of the mill picking duties and instead opting for some warped percussive workouts. Beyond the actual playing, it's worth listening out for some of Turnquist's quirks in presenting his material. Halfway through the chiming raga of 'Amongst A Swarm Of Hummingbirds' there's a bit of a Fennesz moment, Turnquist feeding his instrument through a tangle of granular plugins before emerging at the end with a reinvigorated, gallop to his string plucks. Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, Liam Singer) does a wonderful job of recording the album too, capturing every detail of Turnquist's forceful performance. I guess there's room for one more in that 'solo guitar' section of your record collection afterall. - Boomkat

"All Music Guide"

Based on his debut album, Alexander Turnquist is that rarity, a young solo acoustic guitarist whose work bears no audible influence by John Fahey. Faint at the Loudest Hour has a faint raga feel, sometimes akin to solo albums by ex-Sun City Girls stalwart Sir Richard Bishop, and at times it descends into mere hypnotic prettiness in the manner of first-generation Windham Hill artists like Alex de Grassi and Michael Hedges. But Turnquist cleverly adds other textures and instruments to his playing, subtly enough to keep them from sounding intrusive, but with just enough presence to change the dynamics of what would be just another solo acoustic guitar record. Closing track "As the Sun Sets, We Think of Days to Come" is the highlight in this regard, with Turnquist's effortlessly flowing, cyclical guitar figures meshing perfectly with the repeated tumbling piano figure in the background. The aptly titled opener "Amongst a Swarm of Hummingbirds" is less subtle in its manipulations than the rest of the albums, sending Turnquist's guitar through a Frippertronics-like phalanx of effects and processing before the initial solo theme re-emerges at song's end. Those with little use for solo instrumental showcases won't have their minds changed by Faint at the Loudest Hour, but for aficionados of the form, this is a compelling and encouraging debut. - All Music Guide

"Textura --Faint at the Loudest Hour"

Faint at the Loudest Hour is the remarkably accomplished debut of guitar virtuoso Alexander Turnquist. Though he's not the first to merge acoustic playing (six- and twelve-string guitars and lap steel) and electronics, he shows himself to be a markedly tasteful practitioner of the genre with treatments kept to a minimum. A celestial cloud of Fenneszian haze floats through the middle of “Amongst a Swarm of Hummingbirds,” for instance, but more often than not Turnquist keeps the focus on the wondrous sound of his pure fretwork. The material is full of breathtaking episodes but he isn't averse to slowing things down to near-stillness either when necessary. Sparkling guitar lattices loop hypnotically in a manner that's occasionally reminiscent of an Indian raga or Glass-styled minimalism. Turnquist's compositions never settle into predictable patterns, however, but change direction repeatedly during the album's four long pieces (which surpass the ten-minute mark). Glistening strums in “White Out” exude a classical feel, while a more ambient disposition emerges in the tranquil opening of “Water Spots Upon My Mind” when its opening four minutes are dedicated to gently flowing tones that abruptly give way to dynamic showers of guitar clusters. Vibes and piano add touches of colour but are used sparingly with Turnquist more intent on exploring the guitar's potential; its body becomes a percussive arsenal in the showstopper “Mime Fight” where Turnquist's full range of technique is displayed. - Textura

"Pitchfork Media 8.2"

Faint at the Loudest Hour collects six pieces for acoustic guitar recorded by Idaho musician Alexander Turnquist in a small studio in rural North Carolina in late autumn 2006. Don't let the signifiers fool you: Though based on beautiful acoustic guitar music, very little about Faint at the Loudest Hour is pure, conservative, or provincial. Instead, by embedding both new age and noise-oriented electronic themes into his pastoral pieces, Turnquist unites disparate traditions and ideals, essentially employing sonic counterweights to construct 57 minutes that are as surprisingly dynamic as they are perfectly beautiful.

The cover of Faint at the Loudest Hour is a detail from a shot included in Turnquist's photography series, Broken Reflections. Using a jagged handheld mirror, Turnquist simultaneously captures the scene in front of the lens and something just behind it. In this shot, a visage of knotty, bare branches and blue sky is interrupted by a mirror reflecting more of the same-branches, a sky that's several shades darker, and white splotches (snow?) that disrupt the disruptive image. As the process-based cover and the paradoxical title suggest, Faint explores and interconnects disparate motifs and methods, essentially taking one "picture" and making it more provocative through juxtaposition and mixing. The dominant guitar style here, for instance, employees long, uninterrupted billows of notes in conflicting high and low registers, much like James Blackshaw's The Cloud of Unknowing. But Turnquist occasionally plays in a more percussive style suggestive of Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges, or the contemporary Kaki King. At its best, the guitar work meets those methods in the middle, when Turnquist is executing beyond a singular stylistic comfort.

Similarly, Turnquist undermines some of the disc's most pristine acoustic moments with drones and howls and floods of electronic sound. Assisted by producer and tape wizard Scott Solter, these non-traditional textures are the real counter-reflective glory on Faint at the Loudest Hour. Opener "Amongst a Swarm of Hummingbirds" unfurls a dexterous 12-string guitar stream, Turnquist shaping minor-chord explorations into an arching anthem. Suddenly, the theme is gone, sucked into a blissful vortex of coruscated tape swells, the resplendence tempered with noisy clicks and muted roars beneath. When the guitar re-emerges, it aggresses, less patient and romantic with the pattern now. By track's end, both a bowed lap steel and a trance-like beat have clawed at the acoustic theme.

Aside from the sheer beauty and power of Turnquist's compositions, his biggest accomplishment may be the use of one conflicting form to accent previously overlooked aspects of another. The three-minute wash of tidal electronics that opens "Water Spots Upon My Mind", for example, professes the talents of Turnquist and producer Solter. More importantly, though, it reveals the slow waves of melody written into Turnquist's long-form songs by massaging the attack of the guitar's notes into smooth hills and valleys. That is, by stripping all of the notes away, Turnquist let's us see the forest without having to identify the trees. For such an accomplished player, the move is almost altruistic. Likewise, an electronic haze dotted by vibraphone and taps against the hollow body of a guitar opens "In the Vein of Bedlam". The eerie improvisation hovers, torpid, setting the mood for the brusque picking that overtakes it. Turnquist sounds indignant and troubled, but the key of his anger matches that of the piece's intro. The first four minutes, then, were the sound of his ire taking shape. Because of that prelude, what would have sounded only like an intricate, ominous moment of 12-string guitar sounds more like a story. Connecting is easier.

Inevitably, Turnquist's multi-instrumental ambition sometimes gets the best of him. He emphasizes themes to the point of redundancy or didactism at points, like the return to electronics on the otherwise brilliant "Water Spots Upon My Mind". But, much like Mike Tamburo's 2006 The Ghosts of Marumbey and Fennesz's 2001 Endless Summer, Faint at the Loudest Hour proclaims that the intersection of guitar heroics and electronics craftsmanship is vital.

-Grayson Currin, May 14, 2008
- Pitchfork Media

"CMJ Exclusive"

With the May 17 release of Hallway Of Mirrors nearing, New York-based guitarist/composer Alexander Turnquist has unveiled the track “Spherical Aberrations” off of the upcoming LP exclusively on CMJ. The 23-year-old composer continues to highlight the expansive textural vocabulary of his 12-string acoustic guitar, often taking the instrument to unfamiliar territories. After establishing his capability as an instrumentalist on As The Twilight Crane Dreams In Color in 2009, Turnquist’s third release on VHF is expected to demonstrate the young artist’s growth in compositional style.

While many of Turnquist’s compositions employ complex percussive rhythms on the guitar that are rich with melody, “Spherical Aberrations” features the instrument as a drone hovering above the chord changes of the piece. The track reinforces previous comparisons drawn between his work and the work of Philip Glass due to repetition disguising a gradual evolution of harmony through the entirety of its form. However, Turnquist’s addition of depth to the album’s instrumentation throughout Hallway Of Mirrors, including vibraphone, strings and piano, claims to be inspired by Steve Reich’s “Music For 18 Musicians.” The growing influence from these minimalist compositional perspectives in Turnquist’s repertoire continues to push him further into an unconventional area of acoustic music, but his progressive style and rapid development shows that he is just getting started. In the meantime, you can experience the track “Spherical Aberrations” by streaming it above or downloading it here. - CMJ


Faint at the Loudest Hour --- VHF Records/Revolver Distribution 2007

Apneic--- Kning Disk 2007

Sleep Chapter 3"cd (new american folk hero 2007)

Kubla Kahn--- Textura 2008

As the twilight Crane Dreams in Color---VHF Records/Revolver Distribution 2009

Hallway of Mirrors---VHF Records/Revolver Distribution 2011



Alexander Turnquist is a guitarist/composer who uses his 12 string
acoustic finger-style approach in creating very dramatic and
emotionally engaging music. Turnquist started playing at a young
age with an experimental approach from the onset, and has always
held to the use of the acoustic guitar as the driving force and
foundation in his compositions. In addition to his guitar playing he
cleverly writes into his compositions accompaniment in the form
of mallet percussion instruments, strings, and piano. Turnquist’s
first full length “Faint at the Loudest Hour” was released in 2007
on VHF records, his first fully realized album of solo pieces and
analogue electronic experimentations. In 2009 he released
“As the Twilight Crane Dreams in Color”, which was a critical
turning point from him just being a capable instrumentalist but a
distinctive composer, signaling key changes and melodic
developments with subtle accompaniment. Turnquist has toured
extensively throughout the United States and in Europe. Now at
the age of 23 he is set to release his third full length solo album
on VHF records entitled “Hallway of Mirrors” out on May 17, 2011.
“Hallway of Mirrors” is a continuation of the territory he entered
into on “As the Twilight Crane Dreams in Color”, although on
“Hallway of Mirrors” the compositions are driven with a very
concise energy, heavily patterned and completely acoustic.
Recorded in a large room with natural reverb, the album is an
interplay of harmonic resonance and instrument sustain.

“By embedding both new age and noise-oriented electronic
themes into his pastoral pieces, Turnquist unites disparate tra-
ditions and ideals, essentially employing sonic counterweights
to construct 57 minutes that are as surprisingly dynamic as they
are perfectly beautiful.”
- Grayson Currin (Pitchfork Media) rating of 8.2