Technology and imperfection. The raw and the processed. Curator and curated. Solo explorer and gregarious collaborator. The life and work of Taylor Deupree are less a study in contradictions than a portrait of the multidisciplinary artist in a still-young century.
Deupree is an accomplished sound artist whose recordings, rich with abstract atmospherics, have appeared on numerous record labels, and well as in site-specific installations at such institutions as the ICC (Tokyo, Japan) and the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (Yamaguchi, Japan). He started out, in the 1990s, making new noises that edged outward toward the fringes of techno, and in time he found his own path to follow. His music today emphasizes a hybrid of natural sounds and technological mediation. It’s marked by a deep attention to stillness, to an almost desperate near-silence. His passion for the studio as a recording instrument is paramount in his work, but there is no hint of digital idolatry. If anything, his music shows a marked attention to the aesthetics of error and the imperfect beauty of nature, to the short circuits not only in technological systems but in human perception.
And though there is an aura of insularity to Depuree’s work, he is a prolific collaborator, having collaborated with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian, Stephan Mathieu, Stephen Vitiello, Christopher Willits, Kenneth Kirschner, Frank Bretschneider, Richard Chartier, Savvas Ysatis, Tetsu Inoue and others.
Deupree dedicates as much time to other people’s music as he does to his own. In 1997 he founded the record label 12k, which since then has released over 100 recordings by some of the most accomplished musicians and modern sound artists of our time. Many share with Deupree an interest in stark minimalism, but the label has also found room for, located a common ground with, the acoustic avant-garde, the instrumental derivations of post-rock, and the synthetic extremes of techno.
Like all artists who have been working through and processing life during a global pandemic it can be difficult not to take one’s situation into account when creating. While I did not actively set out to write an “isolation” or “pandemic” piece of music I was, for some reason, drawn toward the idea of being lost at sea, a feeling many are probably experiencing at a time like this. Not in a life-threatening, panicked sense, but in a more mysterious, foggy, or even calming way of feeling. A sense of letting go, of floating, but not knowing where you are, like a child who closes her eyes while swinging high on a playground swing. I suppose as with much of my music I was after the balance on that line of fragility between the insecure and the comforting.
I have spent a lot of time in my life in a canoe, on lakes and rivers. In the very early fog-covered mornings, or the dusks of evening searching for a place to camp for the night. Canoes are peculiar vessels. A way of traveling solo or with only one or two others into hidden areas not often seen from land. They are very sensitive to balance and weight distribution. Standing up in a canoe is not always recommended.
It is these characteristics of the canoe that influenced this piece of music. Something with which I am deeply familiar yet still teetering on the unknown, and, literally, attempting to keep balance. With “Canoe” I hope to instil a sense of solitude, loneliness, and the hushed searching for and unknown something, just out of reach.
Despite recorded music (generally) being a finite format; one with set beginnings and endings, I enjoy recordings in which these points are blurred, or have little meaning. I am fascinated most by music which is less about linear, horizontal movement and more about placing the listener into an environment simply where they exist to find their own path in or out.