Various Artists ~ Texture Series Volume One

TextureForgive the followers of 1631 Recordings if they look a little worn out. The year-old label boasts 75 releases, and as production really ramped up around November or so this amounts to almost two classical, experimental or ambient albums a week. These include a fair few re-releases like Stray Ghost’s discography, older Olan Mill and the under-appreciated The Prelude To by Pleq and Guilio Aldinucci, but still – 75!

Four of these are compilations, making this upcoming volume of the Texture Series the fifth, but whereas other collections focus solely on piano this album spreads its arms wide to gather ambience, drone, strings and post-rock. The accompanying images have changed to suit: continuing the dusty, monochrome and pious theme of earlier Piano Cloud photographs but shifting focus from objects to individuals and filtering them through dreamlike purple fuzz.

The change makes sense as soon as Rhian Sheehan’s lush opener “Solis Ortus” hits its stride and unfolds to a shimmering decoction of Sigur Ros’ never-ending sunrise. The collection progresses in a similar vein – quiet but bold; eminently colourful. Particular credit goes to Olan Mill, who continues to take his choral experiments down ever more subtle and beautiful paths, Christopher Bissonnette for his wonderfully restrained finale and the inspirationally gentle “Grace II” by Sophie Hutchings.

All in all there is quite a lot to take in. The pure guitar drones from Good Weather for an Airstrike lead onto Jamie P’s more dynamic piano which eventually moves to Kyle McEvoy’s acoustic finger-picking. That is quite a diverse grouping of textures and, while it is the nature of a compilation to present different styles, the move from fur to wood lacks the cohesion of 1631 Recording’s earlier piano-based efforts.

Still, this should not distract from the remarkable feat of curation in merely assembling these artists, whether they mesh perfectly together or not. Anything containing Taylor Deupree can only ever be good, and it’s great to hear new music from Rhian Sheehan and more from Erik Levander after such long waits. With Olga Wojciechowska, Clem Leek and Loscil also on board, this first volume of the Texture Series shapes up as an ideal gateway to yet more textures beyond. Perfect news for the label then, as most of these artists have released on 1631 Recordings before and many others will soon.  (Jonny Hunter)

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