Taylor Deupree January Review

BBC Review

New album from microsound pioneer and 12k label boss Deupree...

Colin Buttimer 2004

Tiny dischords threaten to unbalance the delicate equilibrium of January's first track, "Img_0083", like a nail protrubing from a wooden floor might cause a spinning top to skid and topple over. But somehow the track manages to maintain its fragile balance. The main rhythmic impetus is provided by a looped fragment, possibly sourced from a musical box.

Its sound causes me to recall a little merry-go-round nightlight which used to light the darkness of a friend's room. The music conjures an ambience reminiscent of childhood: in its repetition might be spied the echo of infant voices and nursery rhymes like prefigured memories. "Img_0083" utilises the title format applied to digital image files and, although it's pure supposition, perhaps "Img_0083" is the photograph of a child¹s room, the blurred movement of an infant's arm rising from a cot.

"Midlight"is a further evocation of this theme;a woman's voice heard through the equivalent of a hall of sonic mirrors repeatedly enunciates the word 'tiptoe' in soothing tones. "Quiet_C" is pure shivering ambience, the feeling of the early hours when everything is strange and spooked because the body rebels against being awake; welcome pauses emphasise the penumbral delicacy of Deupree's sound. When "Quiet_C" eventually concludes my ears hum for a brief period in the ensuring silence.

Why is the imagery of childhood called to mind? On the inside of the cover there appears to be an endearing dedication to Deupree's newborn child. The photograph on the attractive booklet provides no supporting evidence however, displaying as it does an image of cloudy blue sky seen through the cantilever of a bridge.

On the other hand the track titles extend shallow footholds for such associations: "Skimming", "Midlight", "Quiet_C". January's five tracks are essentially textures which are simultaneously rhythmic and static. There's no distinction between either element: any one sound functions as both pulse and grain. It may seem ridiculous to associate the imagery of children and their surroundings with sound this abstract and yet that very abstraction allows it to be almost literally a sounding board for the imagination. If this urge is successfully resisted, January might instead convey a nebulous, somewhat airless quality like the arid warmth generated inside a computer.

Thankfully there's no edict denying the right to create drama and feeling from a limited number of signs, and the desire to make these sounds emotionally meaningful can be argued to be the fulfilment of a non-binding contract between artist and listener.

January is not a million miles from Oval's work, but it's calmer, less noisy and sustains a more fragile beauty than its German cousins. Its reflective gentleness makes it welcome as both foreground and background sound/music.

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