American label 12k are the kings of experimental, electronic music. The New York label was set up by Taylor Deupree in January 1997 and has since become one of the music industry’s shining lights. Since its inception the label has substantially increased its output while remaining true to its original intentions and musical philosophies.
On 12k, minimalist ambient music collides with the acoustic, and electronic rhythms bleed into abrasive, micro-tonal noise. Advances in technology are fused with natural, thicker textures. Digital textures criss-cross over ornate, organic architecture, leading to highly detailed, highly emotional music. But it goes deeper than music alone. Their sleek artwork sticks like vague, white-stoned concrete to the music, glued to the very fabric of the music. 12k care for what they do, which isn’t always the way. These brand new releases on the 12k imprint show their quality and their current intent.
Norway’s pale Pjusk reflect the colour of the grey ocean. Dark tones glide icily over the music, and the lonesome, breathy tones of a saxophone come to claim a single space, an icy, isolated chamber. Chiming, frost-bitten tones tinkle against the saxophone, and the undercurrent of static insists on a cold, dangerous environment. Malevolent, even. It’s a typical 12k release – it gives the listener a copious amount of space to walk around in, the air is fine and clear, breathing isn’t a chore and the music is an experience, unassisted by thoughts or artistic direction. It echoes two of 12k’s founding principles:
“Don’t tell listeners what they want to hear, let them discover that for themselves”.
“Treat your audience as they are: intelligent, passionate lovers of art and sound”.
Stephen Vitiello & Taylor Deupree’s Captiva is another great example of 12k’s style. It’s a soft hush of a record, quieter than a sweltering Wednesday afternoon at the local library. ‘From The Fish House’ was recorded in a guest house above the bay of the inland waters of Captiva, Florida. The duo used both inside and outside microphones to record their environment – osprey, pelicans and the clean sound of water all become an essential part of the music. It becomes a calming listen, with something of the American state exhaling inside the music.
The tropical atmosphere, the humid air and the thin breeze that ripples the shirt against your back can all be felt if you listen closely enough. Their music together is infectious, beckoning you to come closer. They play around with pinpoint accuracy, but they celebrate imperfection. Perfection is just an unobtainable dream, and its pursuit would probably dilute the music and its emotional impact anyway. Imperfection is the way to go. In Navajo culture, weavers deliberately place a mistake into their work which they call a ‘spirit line’, a line that runs from the centre of the rug and out to the edge of the fabric. It indicates intentional imperfection so that the creative soul can continue to grow, a path out from the present that leads into their future. It’s proof that everyone can continue to improve, and that is something that should be cherished.
The slight dissonant flavour of a piano makes up the final track, and the cooler, nocturnal tone is just as spacious as the light Floridian drone. The album has arced in a subtle, steady curve. Their tonal colours are numerous; fine shades, light hues and thin lines. This is what minimalist ambient music should sound like, a spacious, non-invasive treasure where every listen has something to say.
Taylor Deupree’s Lost & Compiled is a record that basks in a warm, hushed glow. The collection is made out of previously unreleased tracks and early mixes that never made the final cut. Songs go through different stages, they alter along the way and sometimes they completely change. Taylor Deupree’s songs never feel like rough cuts or half-finished tracks, though. His songs “go through so many permutations that by the time they are released they have left behind a trail of ghosts”. It is beautiful music, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable with itself. Its kindness is heard in the soft electronic discharge of ‘Sea Last (06.05.08)’, and the drone floats on and on. As if blown through light sails the drone serenely glides, and clean electric guitar melodies blur against the electronic background. Lost & Compiled is incredibly pretty in its own right and provides an interesting look at the music that often gets left behind. Its voice should be heard, but Lost & Compiled is only available in the 12k shop, so be quick.