Review of Northern (Re-Issue) [12k2009]

Squid’s Ear (.COM)

As though content to slumber in the eternity of artificial memory for some years yet, the sound files that comprised Taylor Deupree’s Northern demurred to his attempts at grubbing through their sordid remains – plug-ins went missing, and errors teemed like sores on the skin, wreaking a sort of subtle revenge.

An exact double thus escapes Deupree’s reach, yet his passion for the document, existing as it does as something of a repository for memories of his first forays into experimental electronics and a mnemonic device in the drawing to mind of those dimmed moments, never entirely peters out. We have here a markedly different yet ultimately familiar work. Most noticeably, where the original album economically dealt in the absence suggested by the assorted arrangements of a whitish pall, this effort brings out its ebullience. It glows in its spaciousness rather than absorbs in its emptiness; it’s hollow sepulchral tones find a new buoyancy while often remaining as slender as a willow.

The form is still open and sectionalized, still rigorous, if somewhat more poetic, allowing listeners to make their own connections between points across the duration of the pieces. This also means pieces are less hesitant, with many works probing around with variations in emphasis and tone, and everywhere there is an almost constantly changing scenario, a succession of minor conflicts and tenable resolutions. “Shell Shell Bye” is generous in its pacing and establishment of repeated patterns for puckering electronics, pops, and flutters. “Haze It May Be” then abandons the preceding fluidity for sustained drones, its merging electric piano and guitar chords and bent notes quivering and hovering in space.

Those acquainted with the previous album will also find certain expectations confounded. As compositions sound out tenuous themes and brittle near-melodies, Deupree inserts frigid and tense silences where they might not be expected, and extends certain passages longer than one might think they should go on. One is on generally less sure footing, and as “Haze It May Be” shrivels up some three minutes before expected, one finds oneself quite all of sudden mired in the moody landscape of dark electronic harmonies and percussive blips and thuds that is the affecting title track and album closer. Its sudden arrival enables it to substantially gain in depth and resonance, something that can be said of the album as a whole. – Max Schaefer

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