Review of Snow (Dusk/Dawn) [12k2016]

Tokafi (.COM)

Wanting good things to last forever is a part of human nature. Having to cope with the fact that they won’t is part of everyday life: Decay, fleetingness, death, evanescence and loss surround us even as we tread on beds of beauty. It is up to the arts, as the invisible link between reality and the fantastical, to bridge the divide. Taylor Deupree’s oeuvre, discounting early exercises in Minimal-Techno such as 1998-full-length Comma, has accordingly often been about the way our lives are ruled by memories and the unique ability of nature to heal the wounds inflicted upon them. In the consoling whiteness of his acoustic winterscapes, the cool clarity of his sonic hillsides or even within the tiny world delineated by the image of a leaf embedded into the surface of a frozen lake, bitterness is replaced by acceptance and the pain of “never again“ subsides into hope. It wasn’t merely his continually refined compositional technique which lent these aural images their entirely uncliched charm, but above all personal experience: Having fled the noise and turbulences of the big city, Deupree found a spiritual home in the rural town of Pound Ridge, his house bordering the very pastoral spaces his musical inventions are taking place in.

Accompanying this intimate internalisation of his surrounding environment has been a gradual discarding of his formerly abstract sound sources – the entire 24-minute title track to Deupree’s favourite solo-album Stil. was famously built on a single, under a second-short micro-sample – in favour of a Folk-bent palette of acoustic instruments. A lot of these can still clearly be discerned on Snow (Dusk, Dawn), at 63 copies the most limited release on his 12k-imprint ever. For sixteen time-suspending minutes, glistening gong-, glockenspiel- and bell-sounds appear in the form of stretched-out timbral drones, metallic resonance as well as a three-note descending melodic pattern repeated (and slowly transformed) all but throughout the entire piece. Bathed in a luxurious steam bath of pine-scented hiss and subtly clicking and scratching particles, the music is at once peaceful and constantly agitated, not dissimilar to how the stream of busy activity in a vast forest coalesces into a deeply comforting, consolidated panorama. Filled with bittersweet sentimental references, this is highly impressionistic music, in which Deupree is no longer programmatically putting images to sound, but rather trying to capture a very particular mood as precisely and lucidly as possible.

Snow was, however, programmatic in one essential aspect, namely in its treatment of the theme of transience. While the music dealt with this concept by all but imperceptibly taking the Leitmotif apart and gradually submerging it underneath a slow-motion wave of related overtones, each copy came accompanied by a unique Polaroid taken only footsteps away from Deupree’s home at two distinct points in time – one of them, as the title denotes, in the morning and the other in the evening. Captured on expired film, their colours quickly started to fade, leaving intact nothing but a dark-greenish surface and the barely recognisable, blotted silhouettes of fir trees in the distance. As little as there is to see in objective terms, image and sound make for a congenial combination: Just like the moment has gone and faded to a sorrowful echo in the observer’s mind, so have its representational artifacts. And yet, one could go as far as to claim that rightly the act of disappearing instills new life into them. What one realises through several listens is that the current experience of the piece never quite matches one’s mental image. Memory, as Snow reveals, is nothing but an – admittedly powerful – illusion. And strangely, by submitting oneself to it again and again, its poison is neutralised, the wound closed.

Despite being relegated, thanks to its highly limited print-run, to a side-thought, Snow (Dusk, Dawn) brought a fruitful chapter in Deupree’s work to an acme. This, after all, seemed to be what the labyrinthine tales of Northern were already tentatively alluding to and what those crackling and playful short stories of Weather & Worn were secretly anticipating. Notions of linear development had been brought to the brink, where they were only held in balance by the thoughful considerations of their creator: A pleasant roughness and inchoateness – or, in the terms of their author, a conscious “imperfection“ – had stolen its way into the music and so had the idea of creating a piece of music in analogy to a system rather than on the basis of traditional chord progressions, thematic leads or a definitive point of destination. It is this analogy which has now become the main focus…

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