The Garden of Forking Paths
"The Garden Of Forking Paths was compiled for Important Records by guitarist James Blackshaw. Compositions were recorded specially for this collection by Helena Espvall (Espers), James Blackshaw, Jozef van Wissem and Chieko Mori. Beautifully assembled, The Garden Of Forking Paths serves as a singular and particularly unique musical statement. The story of how this compilation came into being is, unlike many other stories I could mention, a relatively simple one. My wish was to put together a compilation of experimental music for solo stringed instruments, with little to no overdubs, that would hold up well as a thoughtful and engaging experience as an entirety, from beginning to end, much as I would if I were recording and sequencing an album myself. Given my own history of composing music for solo 12-string guitar, it may come as no surprise to hear that I have for a long time connected with such music in a very immediate and personal way and when the notion of curating a compilation first entered my mind, only a couple of months or so ago now -- an idea also, I believe, born out of a desire for a new creative challenge involving others and a wish to hear my own music in a different context -- it was immediately apparent who I would like to contribute: Chieko Mori, a Japanese composer, koto virtuoso and one-time FABRICA resident, who first came to my attention with her beautiful and mesmerizing debut recording Jumping Rabbit for John Zorn's Tzadik label in 2005, which ranks itself as one of my all-time favorite albums; Jozef van Wissem, a similarly accomplished Rennaissance lute player and composer from The Netherlands, who has collaborated with Gary Lucas and Tetuzi Akiyama amongst others and whose solo albums often make use of palindromic or mirrored structures interwoven with field recordings to haunting and immensely compelling effect; Swedish cellist and improviser Helena Espvall, perhaps currently best known for her work with U.S. psych-folk group Espers, but who has also played with such luminaries as Pauline Oliveros and Eugene Chadbourne and whose own recent solo work has demonstrated her amazing power and sensitivity as an artist. Each of them has a very unique and unorthodox approach of writing and performing, which challenges as much as it embraces their respective instrument's musical roots, be they in Eastern or Western traditional or classical forms. Despite the variation in instrumentation, not to mention the differences in nationality and backgrounds of the performers themselves, it is also interesting to note certain similarities to be found between the five tracks contained on this compilation. Sometimes it can be heard melodically; sometimes within the movement, space or color of the pieces; sometimes it is simply felt -- a purity or emotional resonance that defies analysis and can rarely be articulated into words, at least not by me anyway. It is better some things remain a mystery. That you would stop for a moment to consider it so is enough. I must also mention that the title of this compilation is intended as a homage to Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges' short fictional story El Jardín de Senderos que se Bifurcan, although the album itself is not, maybe other than to the spirit and the themes which pervade Borges' fascinating and inspiring body of work."