The wonderful Textura label produces few releases; the last was Mains de Givre’s Esther Marie in 2010. Every disc is a labor of love, and Monuments and Ruins is no exception. The album provides a platform for the work of two highly-regarded artists, whose work here is more complementary than similar. As suggested by the press release, Talvihorros‘ two-part composition sounds like monuments being constructed, while Damian Valles‘ 22-minute track is representative of ruins.
While the current track order makes physical sense (construction followed by deconstruction), a reversal, rising from the sparse to the populated, makes sonic sense. Valles’ “Hollow Earth Theory” begins with quiet stirrings, wanderings in the wastelands, guitar notes curiously plucked and strummed like instruments found in debris. The form of the piece isn’t evident until the piano moves to the foreground, clearing the path for a sine wave drone. The length of the composition allows the artist to experiment with tone and texture; the final third moves from improvised acoustic guitar to subdued ambience before ending again in crunches.
Talvihorros’ “From Within a Hollow Body (Part II)” offers a lovely 14 minutes of focused drift. Guitar notes are used like colors on a brush: applied, dipped in water, dried, and applied again. The piece produces simultaneous rest and awareness, settling the spirit without knocking it out. The grinding guitars of the first half are replaced by pointillist passions in the second. When only 2:25 remains, a clear melody finally emerges. In the reshuffled alignment, this sets the stage for the album’s most active piece, “From Within a Hollow Body (Part I)”, which immediately introduces a percussive bass drop and melodious, echoed keys. The quickest of the album’s pieces to develop, “Part I” adds a fuzzed-out drone before the second minute has passed, a sharp contrast to “Part II”. Strings emerge in the third minute, deepening the emotional impact as they expand stage by stage to occupy the outposts. The track sounds like fulfillment: a monument completed, a flag installed, a dedication held. As the components retreat, reflection sets in; the album has come full circle. The mind resonates with thoughts of kingdoms lost and found. (Richard Allen)