Taylor Deupree – “Somi”

‘Somi’ is the new feature length release by Taylor Deupree. It follows 2014’s ‘Faint’ and was released on February 3rd, 2017. The release comes packaged as a compact disc inside a 20 page hard-bound book of photographs that inspired Deupree to make the music.

And … what music!

This is a very minimal work – but it is not drone. It has an air between the notation that allows the music to breathe. Itself, the music is comprised of Glockenspiel, electric piano, DX7 and a hand held cassette recorder. But is is loaded with emotion.

Sometimes sombre, always vague – there is an inherent melancholia to the recording. Deupree originally intended to make a follow up to his classic album, ‘Stil.’. Steeped in subtle repetition and very soft electronic sounds, ‘Stil.’ explored themes of timelessness and change. However, where ‘Stil.’ was created using purely electronic sounds (software synthesisers & looping algorithms). I believe Deupree’s ambition was to bring ‘Stil.’ to a new level – to reinterpret the Micro-Sound of ‘Stil.’ with the methodology of how he works today.

With ‘Somi’, apparently Deupree does not use electronic means. Instead opting for the imperfect creation of ‘loops’ by hand. The result is warm, quietly decaying works that utilises sparse, discreet tones and dozens of inter-looped poly-rhythms – the repetitions, or ‘loops’, are constantly falling out of sync and then realigning. It is a very fragile, beautiful work.

While these ideas of phase relationships are not new in music, nor to Deupree’s back-catalogue of work, it is the way he approached to composition of the works that was different – this ‘new methodology’ would have been a lot more difficult to undertake than his past work.

Wrapped up warmly in the sonics of cassette players and cheap built in speakers, ‘Somi’s’ melodies sit quietly, but uneasily.

The process used to create ‘Somi’ is discussed in the book that the compact disc is housed in, written by Deupree:

In my early experiments with repetition I used a host of software-based looping tools which allowed me microscopic control over timing and repetitions. As my aesthetics and work veered toward the more natural and organic I began to incorporate acoustic and found sounds into my compositions. I found the natural variation and irregularities of acoustic instrumentation gave my loops a fragile subtlety that wasn’t available in software. Likewise, moving from software to hardware-based looping devices, and eventually tape loops, introduced a whole universe of beautiful imperfections that only made the repetition more varied and alive.

When I was conceiving the ideas for a new album, that would become Somi, I wanted to take the looping another step further into the imperfect and started experimenting with “hand-made” or manually created loops. With this technique, instead of using any looping devices at all, software or hardware, I would simply play phrases over and over, at a specified temporal division, for the length of the composition. What I found was that my “loops” still remained repetitive but now had the added irregularity of slight timing and timbral variations, because every note and every cycle was played by hand.

The further I explored this technique the more I found that the fewer notes I played during each cycle the better multiple passes and tracks would layer with each other. Each layer, each manual “loop” would also have different lengths. Perhaps the first would repeat every 19 seconds, and then the second every 12 seconds, and another at 64 seconds, and so on. I found as I stuck to a strict looping timer (as much as I could by watching it and playing by hand) notes from each layer would fall on top or in between previous tracks at random locations and create interesting relationships and phrases. Each layer would repeat at different intervals, the equivalent of having a dozen different time signatures in one piece of music. – Taylor Deupree, April, 2016

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