The concept behind Air Texture, as stated on its SoundCloud page, is a simple one â€“ â€śtwo producers co-curate a 2CD compilation. Duality.â€ť (Side note â€“ how was this awesome name not taken by anyone yet?) The producers in this case are bvdub and Andrew Thomas. Their aim is a welcome one â€“ to connect zones of ambience between experimental figures like Oneohtrix Point Never with the minimal electronic soundscapes of artists like Wolfgang Voigt (both of which appear on this compilation. The result is consistently high quality, whether all the names are new to you or not. But in the interest of variation, Iâ€™m going to try to get through the rest of this review without using the words â€śdroneâ€ť or â€śsoundscape,â€ť because in my first draft I found myself using these words a lot, and they only scratch the surface of what is actually going on here.
The bvdub side starts off with a heavy emphasis on string pads, LP samples, and layering. Rafael Anton Irisarriâ€™s early track is probably the most minimal, the cirrus equivalent to the cumulus sounds floating over most of the rest of the disc. bvdubâ€™s own track (over two minutes longer than any other on the disc) is a gorgeously unfolding celestial, ummâ€¦anyway, it consists of minor-key strings layered and peeled away. Maps and Diagrams use light digital bitcrushing to augment their ostinato synth pad. Ian Hawgoodâ€™s track marks the first appearance of the reed organ, lending a more organic basis to his unchanging, well, you see, itâ€™s only got one chord, just goes on real nicely for several minutes. Hawgoodâ€™s piece with Konntinent is a standout, ahh, sound environment, with drifting chords of reed organ, horns, music box sounds, and manipulations resembling Solo Andata or other 12K groups. A reflective piano piece by Arc of Doves ends the side on a note of change.
Andrew Thomasâ€™ side starts on a different path immediately, with a Klimek track based on a field recording. The texture is surprisingly varied, with even Atlas Sound fitting right in, reminding us of Deerhunterâ€™s delightful ambient roots. The surprises keep coming â€“ Biosphereâ€™s repetitive plucked strings and percussion resemble Ravelâ€™s Bolero, and Markus Guentner finally provides the first track on either CD with an electronic pulse. Oneohtrix Point Neverâ€™s â€śAlexander Scriabinâ€ť is a classic drift piece, with gorgeous dunes of decay. Leyland Kirby is at his most majestically cinematic, with both rumbling sub bass and low-resolution electronic artifacts. The closer, by Wolfgang Voigt, is eminently worth waiting for â€“ his layers of reversed tones augmented by horns that almost resemble Jim Oâ€™Rourke. Voigtâ€™s piece shows heâ€™s still on top of the game, synthesizing ambience in surprising and emotional ways. And overall itâ€™s far easier to describe Thomasâ€™ CD without using either of those two forbidden words.
As with any compilation, itâ€™s just as telling what is left off. Absent is anything from the lo-fi tape scene. Absent are more electronic or synthetic droâ€”sorry, you know, noise or whatever. Everything tends towards music and instruments (even if synthesized). Academic or minimalist work isnâ€™t really present either. But altogether itâ€™s an interesting slice and both CDs are very strong all the way through. Good on the producers for making these connections.