mbient music is a stillness that scatters thought. The focus created becomes too intense, insular, monomaniacal. Waxy, flickering images in bric-a-brac. It calls on the subliminal, pulling up flashes of frame and sunlight, those myriad daily movements that slip between the cracks until night fractures a locked box and tosses it all together again, parts misaligned and disconnected now in symphony and clearer for their hellshot placement. Longevity and repetition, grown into a shout by subtle growth, become dynamic translations of sight.
Perhaps, as such, it’s no surprise that Taylor Deupree has stayed atop the microsound industry for so long. Besides such landmark solo releases as Stil and the slight recess of January; and collaborations in the past two years with Christopher Willits, Kenneth Kirschner and experimental Japanese trio Eisi, Deupree remains a steady presence in the art scene surrounding post-techno as a graphic designer and visual creator. His interests in the trappings of image and presentation have perhaps never been as prominent in his music as in Northern, which was recorded in upstate New York after leaving his Brooklyn home. The serene, severe composure of this more isolated setting can be heard in each of the album’s six frigid compositions. In fact, the album’s cover is the perfect representation of the music hid therein: stern but open, a border of white surrounding snow-dusted, winter-dead trees, one so vague and eternal it’s possible to read almost any desired subtext. It’s that edge of frame, that willingness to allow for any and all interpretation while hinting at one particular moment, that makes Northern, along with similar releases by Chihei Hatakeyama, Mountains, and Marsen Jules this year, one of 2006’s must-hear ambient releases.
For the most part, Deupree relies on the same elements that have made his last few solo releases so exemplary. He spreads electric piano tones over still, revolving rings of sine wave and static pulp; as the electronic elements gain hold, his fleshy acoustics split the wire, crossed-over in texture as a melodica holds the horizon Deupree’s backlog of field recordings. Reminiscent, for example, of much of the textural transition between organics and electronics on Stil, opener “Everything’s Gone Grey” combines glowing sine waves with fractured chimes and slow gulfs of static, augmenting its gentle release with increasingly daybreak tones. The title track is likewise an exercise in extended restraint, pushing looped electric piano into gentle folds of noise until they both ascend into a powdery froth.
In the album’s second half, Deupree references Northern’s patient rise by tightening its loops and reintroducing a hush of pace. “Haze It May Be” is one of his most dizzying compositions yet, building a jagged tone into a choral outreach that uses its paucity of sound and noise to elevate the gurgling guitar loop Mountains would be proud of. Closer “November,” however, at first uses its prominent electric piano and melodica to disperse the album’s parlor-moon mood, starting all foul and Augustus Pablo before sheathing that riverside taunt with static and subtle reverb. But of course it dissolves—pulse silences instrument and hypnotism ensues. With Deupree, it has to. That’s his electronic memory bank of post-techno; slice up the odd slabs of today and reassemble them, out of place and sequence; allow them the odd genius of perpetuity, of repetitive, bleary-eyed recall.