Review of Somi [12k1087]

The Wire (UK)

One of the origin myths of ambient music has Brian Eno laid up in bed, listening to low volume music merging with the background patter of rain on the window — out of which comes the idea for Discreet Music. Somi, Taylor Deupree’s first record since 2014’s Faint, sounds at times like an unconscious recreation of that scenario. Into a field of warm tape hiss falls an irregular scattering of sonic droplets: guitar harmonics, single blips of electric piano or glockenspiel. It’s all uncannily convalescent: no dissonance, no sudden shocks. Tiny dosages of tone diffuse, dissolve and just about tint the air, like tinctures, tea or watercolour paint. Deupree describes it as a technical exercise in digital-to-analogue conversion: taking long loop techniques explored on May MSP sets like 2002’s Stil. and playing them by hand on physical instruments (which begs the philosophical question of whether they’re still loops or a musician playing long repetitive phrases…) to produce irregular, organic bursts of tone. Like much of the best ambient music, Somi hovers on the threshold between there and not-there, between implying a musical structure or making you hyper-aware of acoustic space. The miniature scale of Deupree’s sonics in its sparsest moments leaves a ghostly negative of a larger shape, as if Somi is built from isolated tracks of a larger ensemble piece. But when his extended, overlapping loops come together and the sound field gets busiest, Somi’s very deliberate prettiness can suddenly become too pretty, its clusters taking on the twee twinkle of fairy light strings. – Sam Davies

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