Review of Shoals [12k1060]

Mapsidaisical (US)

Taylor Deupree doesn’t work quickly. In the three years that have passed since the release of the majestic Northern, there have been but a few short releases of new material- the Weather and Worn 7″, the Snow (Dusk, Dawn)  and 1am CDs, and the Live1:Mapping download. Maybe he was waiting for inspiration. Maybe his other projects, whether it be the running of the 12k label, his graphic design work, or the frequent collaboration take up a lot of his time. Having heard his new album Shoals, I’m inclined to put it down to him being something a bit of a perfectionist.

Shoalsis a a continued refinement of Deupree’s methods. After Stil’s crisp minimalism, Northern stepped outside into the woods of New York state to make for a lusher and more organic experience. As well as using some very different sound sources, Deupree ventured a little further to record Shoals, taking up a position as artist-in-residence in the University of York, where he took a keen interest in their collection of Javanese and Balinese gamelan instruments. Well, who wouldn’t? But, being Deupree, he took an unconventional, almost scientific approach to these fascinating instruments – examining their sonic qualities, exploring their imperfections, recording, layering and looping. It is far from being purely an academic exercise though, as while he may have ditched the more melodic approach of Northern, Shoals is the warmest and most inviting-sounding recording of Deupree’s career. It is built on a solid foundation of shimmering drones, which pulse gently, rising up to to snare the listener and drag them down into a world of strange small sounds, unplaceable and seemingly randomly placed. Like being dragged down into a dream (indeed I’ve found myself falling asleep to this album a few times over the last week late at night, and that isn’t meant as a slight on the album at all, quite the opposite), a dream in which I’m drifting off to sea on a gently rolling ship, hearing the wood of the hull creak, and water dripping onto metal pipes.

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