Alexander Turnquist – Like Sunburned Snowflakes

4 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Alexander Turnquist (?)

When I call this style over substance, it’s not outright a complaint – it’s just what results in my only complaint about Alexander Turnquist’s 5-song EP, Like Sunburned Snowflakes.

The tracks are composed via a sole concept: harmonics, plucked on a 12-string guitar. The sound is thus rather limited to expected tones, but Turnquist patiently, and masterfully, wrings much out of those tones, turning them into sweeping ranges of notes and strummed chords, shifting from quieter and contemplative to more aggressive, moving moments. But as per the artist, this album was maybe more conceptual than outright emotional: he’d wanted to construct “…an entire solo guitar recording just employing (his) left hand to the harmonics up and down the neck and alternating picking patterns with (his) right.” That doesn’t mean we don’t feel any passion as we go along, rather just that it’s a set of songs that started out with a template, not their story. As such, despite the song titles forming a sentence about leaves falling, I don’t really hear a narrative until we get to the last couple tracks. When that hits, though, the surprising power of this relatively minimalistic setup – just a guitar, a limited range – shocks, and I found myself fully immersed.

The lead-ins are all equally compelling, and dense, building frum pluckings to strums and back, but after the first track establishes the sound, there’s the sense of holding back for something to be revealed. Purposefully or not, that perhaps syncs with the “reveal” of the leaves mentioned in the song titles falling, leaving us bare for the powerful last two tracks.