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Taylor Deupree - Shoals

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Artist: Taylor Deupree

Album: Shoals

Label: 12k

Review date: Jul. 23, 2010

When Taylor Deupree recorded his first CD on the 12k label in the late 1990s, his aesthetic was rigorously minimal, synthetic and self-consciously urban in character. He specialized in microscopically detailed electronic music that was influenced by techno, yet retaining only the faintest traces of the dancefloor. But my how Deupree’s music has changed over the years. Though the minimalism and finely tuned details remain, the cool, technological sheen is gone, replaced by a shimmering warmth.

Shoals is the second full-length solo album that Deupree has released, since moving from Brooklyn to rural upstate New York. His previous CD, Northern, was a musical reflection of and rumination on Deupree’s new environs, still minimal, but warm, organic and uncharacteristically melodic. On this new record, Deupree continues to refine this approach, but does so without any of the songlike elements. And the result is perhaps Deupree’s most interesting and evocative recordings to date.

The album has its origin in an artist residency at the University of York in the U.K., where Deupree sampled the sounds of the college’s extensive collection of Balinese and Javanese gamelan instruments. But don’t expect the familiar unearthly shimmer of traditional gamelan. These were not played in an orthodox manner. Instead, Deupree scrapes, taps and resonates them with an eBow, focusing on the unique sonic textures of wood and metal. These sounds, along with incidental room noise, are the only sounds he used, and each of the four pieces on Shoals is based on a different loop made from the York sessions.

The soundworld that Deupree creates is not wholly unlike that on Northern. At their core, the four pieces are based on gently pulsating drones that repeat and evolve slowly over an extended period of time. But their pared-down quality heightens their entrancingly soporific effect, with no acoustic guitar or piano melody to break the spell.

The structures are still as repetitive and minimal as his earlier microscopic experiments, the sounds still as finely crafted, but the atmosphere is dense with organic material. It’s the small details on a track like “A Fading Found,” one of the album’s most beguiling pieces, that mesmerize; as a quavering drone is swarmed by clicks, crackles and drifting chimes. And, while the pieces have little in common with traditional gamelan, they do share its sinuous, liquid nature. Nowhere is this truer than on the final track, “Falls Touching Grasses,” which, with its oneiric drift, sounds rather like an aquatic lullaby.

By Susanna Bolle

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