As an accomplished 12-string guitarist/composer, Alexander Turnquist was naturally alarmed when the ulnar nerve in his left hand seized up in 2013, but after a surgical procedure he gratefully started the process of learning to play guitar again. His recovery was cut short when not long after the surgery he was hospitalized with meningitis. Though his recovery is ongoing, and he continues to struggle with a weakened immune system and memory loss, he was inspired to soldier on, rather than being deterred by his physical struggles.
Turnquist's latest full-length Flying Fantasy confirms the idea that out of great hardship can come great art. As he wrote the material for the new album it became clear that his sensitivity had sharpened, his empathy magnified, and his sense of purpose blossomed. The unfortunate circumstances he endured ostensibly forced his metamorphosis from a remarkable guitar player to a truly great composer. Much like the butterflies that adorn the album cover, he seems to have changed form and taken flight.
The album opens with the sparse harmonics of "House of Insomniacs", which are soon joined by lush swells of vibes, cello, and even wordless vocals. On the tracks that follow, Turnquist continues to make use of this dynamic sonic pallet, even adding organ, piano, marimba, steel drums, violin, and french horn to the mix. From "Red Carousel", which was inspired by Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, to the somber lilt of the love song "Wildflower", to the truly arresting title track "Flying Fantasy" which uses only 4 open strummed guitars and loops of damaged tape and wire recorders, every note of Flying Fantasy vibrates with life as Turnquist ushers us though his intoxicatingly colorful worlds of sound.
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.
New York's Turnquist is masterful. His right hand technique is as orchestral as Nick Drake's, sending rivulets of steel sadness out across the water, but applied to a minimalist logic with the weight of early Philip Glass or Steve Reich.
Turnquist layers his six and twelve string guitar instrumentals with electronic drones, piano and vibes. This first widely available release is a filmic beauty, its chilly pastoralism distinguished by the physicality of his playing.
...another bravura outing from Turnquist that is, in its own unassuming way, a triumph.
...it doesn't sound like John Fahey or Leo Kottke, it's something else entirely as it explores the beauty of the instrument without bordering on the twee or the overtly pretty. A good comparison might be Goldmund or Hauschka's use of prepared piano as the end result is fairly similar, but there's very little out there exactly like this album, and that's what makes it so special.
…a beautiful collection of music that is certainly worth examining closely, but is also very easy to sit back and enjoy simply for the pleasure of it. Really, there’s an awful lot going on here technically, but the music itself has a purity to it that is simply stunning. This is definitely a great effort and worth seeking out.
Recalling at times guitarist virtuosi James Blackshaw and Jack Rose, Turnquist uses his instrument as a Takoma tapestry of chiming, detailed patterns, adding subtle melodic turns to the extended repetitions of "raga-style" chording. If Philip Glass had played guitar on his groundbreaking works such as "Metamorphosis", it might have sounded something like what Turnquist is exploring here.