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Taylor Deupree: "Weather & Worn"; Mirko Uhlig & N: "Sanddorn"

img  Tobias

As Taylor Deupree, who is also a professional photographer next to his musical activities, well knows, even connoisseurs love snapshots. But when it comes to music, the short form is mostly considered inferior. I can well remember how surprised I was when Mirko Uhlig first showed me an Organum 7inch Vinyl single at a visit to Cologne's famed A-Musik record store. A drone piece of barely four minutes – would it work? Could it work? Since then, of course, my perception of musical miniatures has changed considerably. Not least thanks to the tireless efforts of Bremen-based, 7inch-obsessed label Drone Records. In their catalogue, currently approaching its 100th entry, the format has turned into a playground for sonic metaphors and a self-contained cosmos whose perceptional dimensions always appeared far more extensive than its physical container suggested. For Uhlig, tapping into this aesthetic was as natural as breathing. Even though his full-length „Genmaicha“ on Mystery Sea may have been more dreamy and accessible, it was his Platon-inspired 2006 release „Fragment 36“ on Drone Records (still under the name of Aalfang mit Pferdekopf) which would really mark a modest breakthrough in terms of medial attention. Three years on, „Sanddorn“, a split with befriended Guitar-Dronist N now finally follows in the footsteps of this praised predecessor.

It may seem strange if I should be writing about „Sanddorn“ myself, as it is published on an imprint I co-run (Ex Ovo). But with this release, I consciously stayed out of the entire production process to allow myself to be just as surprised as any other listener. You notice is straight away: Uhlig hasn't rested on his laurels. His contribution to the collaboration is defined by an even more heightened sense of minimalism than ever before (if one discounts for the fact that both tracks on „Genmaicha“ were, in fact, culled from a single Organ chord, that is). The piece opens with a three-note Piano motive, possibly inspired by one of his favourite William Basinski-works, „The Garden of Brokenness“. Glassy, ethereal harmonics wrap themselves around the Piano, casting it in milky light and hinting at the typical gradual accumulation of various layers and elements. In a complete turnaround, however, Uhlig discontinues the proceedings and fades the music into silence for a few seconds. Then, the Leitmotif returns. This time, however, it has been pitched down and what formerly sounded bucolic and melancholic now seems withered, bluesed and torn. A wistful Flute tone is accompanying the first note of the theme – was it there from the beginning? It is questions like this which keep the music spinning in your head long after the needle has left the record.

Helmut Neidhard's (aka N) part of the equation is, if anything, even more stripped to the bone. Delicate, swelling drone-breaths are tangled up in a process of mutual entanglement, circling round each other like water droplets in zero-gravity. Just when the piece seems poised for liftoff, with a bass-motive indicating stability and direction, the journey ends. With it, the entire conception of the track collapses in a beguilingly enigmatic anti-climax. Fleetingness, the tactile tension of transition and the beauty of beginnings are key themes on a composition, which never quite prepares you for its sudden decay. Somehow, one always feels as though one had missed something – a clue, a hint - on the way. This mystique, however, is exactly what provides it with the necessary depth and makes you want to come back to it again and again. With this in mind, these two piece certainly wet one's appetite for a Uhlig/N 12inch later this year.

While Vinyl was a natural part of Uhlig's education, digital formats had long ruled the world of Taylor Deupree. Everything seemed to argue against his 12k label ever setting foot into the world of turntables: Higher manufacturing costs, thus higher risks and, from an artistic point of view, the difficulty of finding a vocabulary truly suited to the format. His love for the haptical and visual pleasures of Vinyl finally won him over in the end. As with most of Deupree's decisions (such as his commitment of releasing a new sound recording every day in 2009), „Weather & Worn“ is not just a one-off, but the beginning of an ongoing commitment and a continuous series of  publications. On the outside, the single has all the bearings of a quality product: A black sleeve containing the clear disc is protected by a heavy and nicely rough chipboard cover. The care has paid off. Even though still available from a few select mail orders, „Weather & Worn“ has already sold out from 12k in an edition of 250 copies – no mean achievement considering the 7inch is generally regarded as one of the least commercially-viable outings available.

If the process of entering the world of Vinyl was long and laborious, recording „Weather & Worn“ may well have been one of the most inuitive and immediate things Deupree has ever done. In fact, the entire material came together in a single session on a dreary and depressing day of rain and dark clouds. Bathing in the colours and warm resonances of a variety of acoustic instruments, it has yielded two short dreamstates drawing as much from soft melodic textures as from discreetly noisy and granularly scraping sounds. While „Weather“ is embedded into a dense sheet of pointilistic Guitar pickings, micro-palpatations and „cat snoarings“ (which sound peculiarly like someone speaking in a foreign tongue), „Worn“ comes across as a calm, consoling and comforting. Brushed metallics and airy hiss provide spatial components, as two melodic lines, one in gentle overtones and another on the Guitar, start overlapping and dissolving.

Both pieces at times sound as though they were taken from a much larger whole, as though they were merely introductions to an epic trip through hazy territory. And yet, this time, Deupree went about exactly the other way round. Extracting a loop from „Worn“ after it had been finished and slowing it down from 45rpm to 33, Deupree created an extended, 23-minute lullaby only available as a digital download. To some, this decision underlines the problematic aspects of a 7inch, which is forever bound to circle its own axis. And yet, this is also what lends it that peculiar and incomparable power. A whole life and endless stories are contained within this small space, just like a photographic snapshot can reveal an ocean of emotions. When I played „Weather & Worn“ again last night, a real thunderstorm suddenly started to  groan and rumble in the dark distance outside, offering coolness and release after a day of immense, claustrophobic heat. And there seemed nothing could be more wonderful than the short stretches of silence between the end of one side and the beginning of the next.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Taylor Deupree
Homepage: Mirko Uhlig
Homepage: N
Homepage: 12k Records
Homepage: Ex Ovo Records
Homepage: Genesungswerk Records

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