Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer – Lowlands.

The third release in Iikki’s audio/visual pairing comes from the musical duo of Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer paired with the photographs of Ester Vonplon.

Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer are well known names in the Ambient/Electronic community with the New York based Deupree running the highly respected 12k label as well as being an in demand masterer and musician himself and Fischer a regular collaborator with Deupree (“In a Place of such Graceful Shapes” and “Twine”) and the man behind the highly influential “Monocoastal” album. Ester Vonplon is a Berlin trained Swiss photographer who traveled to Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean in summer 2016. She sailed the ice-clogged seas of the Arctic Ocean on a three-masted sailing vessel, to capture the impressions of the calving glaciers and melting ice.

This journey in the Arctic Ocean was the perfect beginning for Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer to compose and record Lowlands.

Iikki states Deupree music “emphasizes a hybrid of natural sounds and technological mediation, and shows a marked attention to the aesthetics of error and the imperfect beauty of nature, marked by a deep attention to stillness, to an almost desperate near-silence” while Fischer’s “work typically centers around memory, geography and the manipulation of physical audio recording mediums. Slowly unfolding melodies and warm tape saturated drones have become a trademark of his recordings.” Both these descriptions are evident in the music that makes up “Lowlands”.

“Lowlands” starts off with toy like piano, field recordings with a static haze quality to them, distant bells, occasional guitar. The track has a dreamy quality with a combination of muted sound and then a crystal clear guitar piece that gives the track depth. Its almost like the images contained in the book of something submerged and then being revealed. There is also the occasional warped sound as if something has been left to the environment has changed shape. There is a bass hum that comes towards the end if the track, that if listened to in a car has the power to vibrate the vehicle.

“On Branches” starts with what sounds like someone going off to record something and they are setting to their dictaphone. Bells chime, scratching sounds, detritus, old micro Caretaker like sounds are buried. Loops abound, but not obviously. The main feel is of decay, like something is breaking down, but the track loses most of the clattering sounds to a nice ambience at the end.

“Rides” Drones, glitchy tones, warped melodies, guitar plucks build as the track starts off slowly and picks up speed with a kaleidoscope of sound as if wheels are spinning towards a descent. Percussion, mostly cymbal sounds like and sticks clatter making the track denser. Towards the end most of the elements fall away.

“Migration” guitar leads off this track , with a warped sound, treated guitar sounds of shuffling or of sanding wood, light drones that give the affect of a clear sky. The memory of fellow 12k artist Seaworthy comes to mind with his fusion of sound and guitar.

“Sometimes” has a hint of an eerily still early morning with electrical buzz, ambient drones, chimes, occasional beats, but not in the traditional sense. Buried guitar slowly makes its was out of the background, while drones float. Some of the electrical like sounds remind me of recordings where people have recorded the natural environment and the sounds emitted by the earth.

“Snow Slowed” goes hauntilogical with buried sounds under a veneer of dust, with haunting drones, broken piano and a bright becoming harsh drone which sounds like an icy gale whipping around the environment.

“Cascaded” warped sounds caress effected guitar in a loop like fashion with an underbelly of crackling static and detritus. Tones flitter and break down, chimes generated from the guitar give a xylophone like tone. Slow drones, with a slight high tone hold the middle ground for the detritus underneath and chimes on top.

“Rivers” a violin drone cuts across the beginning, with melodic under play looping around, guitar is picked carefully, clattering field recordings, dark cello like drones which give ominous edge buzzsaw across, sounds which remind the listener of a childs jewelry box bump into each other and the sounds of a breeze swirling around are all included in this track which has the most clearest if sound palet on the album. It naturally finishes with recordings of water.

The obvious thing for musicians to do would be to make a heavily water based record with a glacial feel to it to emphasize both the coldness and the the slowness of glaciers calving and melting. To their credit Deupree and Fischer don’t, they follow the descriptions of their styles that the label stated above to a tee. The recordings made over the period of 2014-2017 come diverse areas such as Reykjavic and the duos own areas of Pound Ridge and Portland respectively. The recordings do have a feeling that they can be applied to other themes as they are not rooted in one sound. My only complaint would be use of warped sounds over several of the tracks. While it makes them share similar element, it appears to be slightly overused.

IIKKI Books x 2 : Danny Clay / Katrien De Blauwer – Stills / Andrea Belfi / Matthias Heiderich – Alveare. 

IIKKI Books is the sister label to the very popular French label Eilean Rec run by Mathias Van Eecloo (who retired his well known Monolyth & Cobalt project recently), with the exception of the media being vinyl and accompanying photography/art books vs handmade cd-r releases. This is the only difference as much like the quality and eye for detail that Eilean Rec is known for, it carries onto the IIKKI catalog.

Currently there have been two releases which will be covered here with the next installment, a collaboration between Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer (on the music) and Ester Vonplon (on the book) which is due out the end of June/early July (see below for a preview).

IIKKI 001 is “Stills” with music by Danny Clay and visual art by Katrien De Blauwer. Danny Clay is a San Franciscso based artist “whose works frequently utilize open forms, archival media, found toys, toy instruments, analogue and digital errata, family history, graphic notation and everything in-between”. His works have appeared on such labels as Hibernate, Unknown Tone Recordings, Heat Death, Tesselate and Eilean Rec to name a few. On this recording he is joined by Paula Karolak on Viola while he uses Piano, Voice, Harmonium and Viola. The record was mastered by Taylor Deupree and design by Sprflxgrfzm.

Katrien De Blauwer, an artist from Belgium calls herself a “photographer with out a camera”. She recycles old pictures and photos from media sources “to create stunning collages of mood and place. These fragmentary images evoke faded memories that are quickly brought to the fore. In turn the viewer becomes a character in De Blauwer’s stories”.

The musical component of “Stills” is hauntingly crafted with tape loops by Danny Clay over a two-year period. In fact you could claim it lies in Hauntilogical canon of experimental ambient music, alongside the likes of The Caretaker, William Basinski, Indignant Senility and the likes. There is sound pallet of dense hiss like background noise to the tracks like “10.15.2015(1)” which evoke a distant feel, like you are hearing in something from the past that is almost a memory in that there is a little cloudiness, much like most memories from the past tend to be. The simple instrumentation creates quite a range of sound so that the music isn’t just one shade.

After a warped brief track in “5.12.2016” the album begins proper with the aforementioned “10.15.2015” which starts with a modern classical mournful piano, before drones enter (presumably from the Harmonium) with aged hiss/the occasional bumps or glitches which evoke a scratch on a record or re-used recording tape. The track is a looping one that is immersive.

The next track “6.12.2015(1)” starts off with the what sounds like of a needle on a dusty groove while an instrument is being prepared.  Being that he has used toy instruments in the past you would think it was this, but due to the instrumentation listed I would lean a prepared piano with creating the sound. Loops of what sounds like layered and paired Harmonium and vocals become the opposing sound that creates a different melody,  but has the same quality to that of the prepared sound.

“3.16.2016” brings the Viola into the album for the first time, if I am not mistaken with two Violas combining with minimal piano to create a lighter feeling track. The hiss is there, but the tones that the Viola’s create give a lot of warmth, which is something that Viola can bring the opposite of. Conversely when they return on “3.15.2016” , a later highlight, the mournful quality of the Viola is the predominant sound of the piece.

“6.12.2015 (II)”, “6.12.2015 (IV)” (more of the variations of the track 6.12.2015″) and the previously mentioned “5.12.2015” are all short tracks, re-workings  or possible fragments of memories.

“10.15.2015 (II)” is a stand out with minimal piano and warped loops which fuse an almost ghostly like presence to the plaintive piano perfectly. Both sounds are some what buried in the track which adds to the haunting quality.

“10.30.2015 (I)” is comprised of small loops and is closest to William Basinski in its construction of muted drones, presumably of Harmonium, with glitch like piano plunking on a regular short loop. Repetitively nice it doesn’t wear out it’s almost 4 minute length.

“5.24.2016”, collects piano loops with vocal melody drones and very low in the back ground another series of piano and the customary hiss that bathes all the tracks and adds depth. The background low series of piano cones to the foreground, while the original foreground swaps to the background giving the track a nice variation and focus.

“6.12.2015 (III)” revisits the original two versions and is the more experimental of the three tracks. There is more of the glitch / scratch at the opening and the perceived toy instrument sound is more affected/warped.

The album finishes with “10.30.2015 (II)” which places the piano front and center alongside the vocal loops and seems to hold little in regards to the previous titled track. It’s almost like the track could be the perfect distillation of the albums sound with all the elements lined up and complimenting each other.

While different in sound, but maybe not in mean to previous releases like “Ganymede” or “Archive”, “Stills” shows what an artist using such a minimal sound source can construct.

Comparing the audio to the visual I can only go by what I have seen in the slide show on the IIkki page and the below Vimeo video, De Blauwer’s collages don’t reveal full images and provide juxtapositions which compliment the music at hand.

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This particular book has been nominated for the Revelation Book Awards to be announced at La Maison Rouge in Paris next week.

IIKKI 002 is “Alveare” a music by Andrea Belfi and visual art by Matthias Heiderich. Andrea Belfi is “a drummer, composer and experimental musician. Through the last twenty years he has developed a unique style of drumming“. His work has appeared on labels such as Room40, Miasmah, Constellation and others. On this recording Andrea plays drums, percussion and synthesizer and is joined by Audrey Chen (Cello on “Grigiro”) and Atilla Faravelli (Rotating Speakers on “Abito”). The record was mastered by Guiseppe Ielasi and design by Sprflxgrfzm.

Matthias Heiderich is a Berlin based photographer whose urban landscapes “plays with lines and colors to give his own vision of the cities,  a new perspective of architecture photography. And certainly,  more than all,a regard on the human”.

“Alveare is a journey across and toyed man-made cement beehives – the legacy of a group of visionary architects.  Their playground : post-war Italy. Their vision: affordable dwelling designed to meet as many human needs as possible. A superficial look at these architectural reveries decades later might bring to mind terms as “excessiveness” and “megalomania”. But these massive edifices are prototypes of a city  of the future –  an urbanized future that was yet to be shaped by bold ideas and dreams”.

When you think of musicians that are predominantly percussionists,  there are not a lot that come to mind that produce music other on their chosen instrument or who explore sound. Artists like Simon Scott, Oren Ambarchi, Tony Buck and Mick Harris come to mind. Add Andrea Belfi to that list. Belfi’s “Alveare” is a sonic trip, brilliantly mastered by fellow Italian Guiseppe Ielasi (who was formative in the younger Belfi’s musical education due to a distribution he ran and exposed Andrea to different sounds). This LP is perfect for headphone listening. The sounds bounce in and out and are sharp and clear with depth and texture.

“Alveare” opens  with “Vano” (meaning vain) which starts with panning electronic pulses and percussion that in places is slightly muted, repetitive and explores the drum kit. There is a slightly Dubby feel with layers of thud electronics which are the predominant sound. Sounds fizz and scatter, glitches of sine waves pop and crack, ominous sounds and noises swirl in a mid track crescendo and continue to hold their own while the percussion holds it together.

“Statico” starts with persuasive gong sounds with added effects various persuasive effects like what sounds like small drums, a sharp triangle, but not triangle sound with what sounds like some sort of whistle/wind instrument and electronics that build a hypnotic mostly persuasive track that gives you the feel of a documentary of some 70’s Expo.

“Grigio” (meaning Grey) featuring the Cello of Audrey Chen starts of with a Spaghetti Western feel or of a film scene some sort of isolation or in the desert, with the synths providing that feel supported by digitally affected percussion and repetitive cymbal work, haunting cello, building electronics and slightly motorik percussion leads into scattershot electronics that lead into the tracks percussive finale. For an almost 9 and a half-minute piece there is a lot going on. The only reference I can come up with is some elements of Amon Tobin’s work.

“Abito”  featuring Atilla Faravelli on rotating speakers is probably the most futuristic of the pieces on the album. The futuristic sounds are purely from the past, the drumming that is the bed for which they rest on is tribal. A translation of “Abito”  to English references clothing or dress, when cam also be used in reference to appearances, so in this case it could ne a direct reference to the futurist architecture of the book.
“Passo”  (meaning steps or a small movement) contains the elements from previous tracks filtered through to one point. Electronics scatter and clash, synth sounds from from the 70s vibrate and oscillate, Dubby percussion clangs and bangs, while the track flows in a Dubby experimental fashion.

Comparing the audio to the visual I can only go by what I have seen in the slide show on the IIkki page and below Vimeo video, the images are quite angular, geometric in pattern and minimal. It would be easy to go with music that fitted these things,  but the buildings themselves were futuristic from a post-war perspective and Belfi’s take on post-war futurism compliments Heiderich’s photos perfectly. Incidentally the word “Alveare” means beehive, which in some of the cases of the photo makes sense with the angles and geometric shapes of some of the architecture featured.

One nice part of the releases is the way get combine from the spine of the book having the same label as the record (with the artist’s name changed), through to the book having sections devoted to this tracks. They way they tie in the audio and the visual is to be commended.

The next collaboration is previewed here: 

Iikki has been selected as one of the fine art book publishers at Les Recontres D’arles De La Photogaphie to present their works and Ester Vonplon as nominated as one of the new discoveries. Congratulations to all.