Review of Stil. [12k1020]

Haunted Ink (US)

Taylor Deupree’s previous solo work, Occur, was, according to the 12k web site, “a work of non-repetition and subdued melodic passages composed almost entirely by granular synthesis algorithms.” By contrast, Deupree’s latest, Stil., is”the sonic opposite of Occur: a set of compositions based on extreme repetition and the exploration of stillness.” Do these explanations help you better understand or appreciate either work? Certainly. However, such analytical appraisals–accurate though they may be–do tend to scare off most potential listeners. People don’t want to listen to concepts; they want to listen to music. The shame is, Stil., although based around an interesting concept, is a far more enjoyable listening experience than the 12k web site lets on.

Stil. is four long tracks in the 10-25 minute range. Each song has a fairly similar structure, one focused on repetition, but the tracks are not about repetition at all. They are, if anything, about the process of dissecting repetition. The first track, “Snow/Sand,” is, at first listen, merely a single, repeating synth/glitch loop. This loop rolls along through the entire track, and my first impression was disappointment. What’s the point of creating a song that just repeats a tiny fragment for 15 minutes? Ah, but I kept listening. Sure, the loop is constant, but it’s not alone. At around the 4 minute mark, tiny little grains of noise start to flitter around like a digital emulation of LP scratches, interfering with the original loop. Then, around the 8 minute mark, the initial loop itself starts to change: at times speeding up, at times slowing down, and at times panning from left to right (this is especially apparent if you wear headphones). It’s a beautiful work that gets more beautiful the more you listen.

“Snow/Sand” is constantly repeating itself, yet this repetition is far more complex, far more nuanced than it lets on. In other words, it’s repetitious in the same way that life is repetitious. We might get up at the same time every day, go to work at the same time, and eat lunch at the same time, go home at the same time, watch TV or surf the Internet at the same time, and go to sleep at the same time, but that doesn’t mean that every single day is exactly the same. There are always little differences that separate one day from the other; it’s just that we generally ignore those differences. What makes music like “Snow/Sand” so interesting and so relevant is that it focuses our attention on the shifting variations that make every repeating loop different. In effect, a song like this encourages us to pay more attention to the infinite differences in our lives.

Stil. does the seeming impossible. It manages to take the standard glitch sounds that pervade most electronic music today, put them (ostensibly) into a boring, repetitive framework, and somehow, some way, turn each track into a wonderful, haunting soundscape that is as emotionally rewarding as it is intellectually stimulating. Deupree is one of the finest electronic artists working today, and his music is always worth experiencing. This is certainly no exception.

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