With over one hundred releases since its inception by Taylor Deupree in 1997, New York-based music label 12k has decisively defined and developed the concept of minimalism in the realms of electronic music for almost two decades. Fusing elements from ambient and acoustic experimentation with carefully arranged digital textures and associative micro-noises, the label’s aesthetics revolve around a precisely-outlined, yet deeply emotional concoction of the technological and the organic. Eschewing the typical marketing mechanisms of the commercial music industry, Deupree has sculpted a platform whose influence today extends well beyond the confinements of the experimental community. 12k’s integral approach, in which the label’s instantly recognizable, elegantly spartan artwork enters into an inseparable symbiosis with the music, has created a timeless audiovisual language respected and appreciated all over the world.
Part of this highly personal approach can be traced back to the roots of 12k as an “anti-label” originally founded as a response to a record deal Deupree had that went bad. No press or promo work was performed for the first year of 12k, with even distribution being handled exclusively through the company’s fledgling website. After its rebellious beginnings, Deupree’s brainchild developed into an adventurous space for discovering his true identity as a musician and then inviting others to join him in that pursuit. Although still heavily indebted to a past influenced Techno and early electronic music, his debut under his own name for 12k (Comma,) already bore the unmistakable marks of minimalism – a trait artists like Shuttle 358’s Dan Abrams, Stephan Mathieu or Deupree himself would later hone to perfection. As the mainstream electronic scene was increasingly veering towards risk-free Chill-Out and wallpaper-like Downbeat, 12k’s equally ambitious and strangely sensuous albums demanded to be appreciated with the same attention and care with which they were conceived.
Despite the startling diversity of 12k’s activities in sound and design, the 12k philosophy has only become clearer over the years. Even though it has occasionally dabbled its feet in unknown waters, favored abstractions over easy references and refused to mark time, the label’s protagonists always keep returning to the beauty of minimalism and the beguiling mystery of an infinite cosmos of micro-sounds. Both in its stripped-down design and music, 12k constitutes a conscious counterpoint to the information overload of the 21st century. With this much credit obviously comes great responsibility, which has meant opening the label up to new names. Accordingly, 12k has published the works of a plethora of fresh talents, thereby staying true to the original inquisitive spirit of the community. Starting as out an exploration of the computer as an instrument, it has also developed a growing fascination for the natural resonances of acoustic instruments. Gradually, then, Deupree is coming ever closer to realizing his ideal of a label beyond the restrictions of genres and styles. His intentions are still very simple, after all: “Trying to create something beautiful, however small, in this oversaturated, violent world that we live in. A small space – a place to breathe.”