On Musical Yakisugi: Taylor Dupree’s “rem” (2022)

Within contemporary ambient music’s often texturally generic world, the work of Taylor Dupree carves a distinctive sound. Dupree is a master of assembling tableaus of small, delicate sounds suffused with noise to convey the aura of aged materials. The music conjures Yakisugi, the Japanese method of wood preservation through burning. 

The best of Dupree’s music excels where other ambient musics fail: it draws your ear to multiple layers of simultaneous musical action. For example, on the track “rem”  (2022) we hear a descending three note melody in c-sharp minor played twice, accompanied by a counterpoint line in a lower register (or maybe both lines are of the same part). As the melody and accompaniment phrase repeats, we also hear the resonance of a space (created with reverb and delay), a crackling white noise/ static, and the wobbling tape artifacts of what could be old magnetic tape. As we listen, we wonder how the music was assembled. Was it recorded onto cassette? Was it sonically “burned” in successive processing stages, like the Yakisugi method, to achieve its artifacts? However it was made, “rem” holds our attention through its distinctive layers rather than numbing our attention through a homogeneous wall of sound. The pitched and textural elements in the track seem to float, yet undergo subtle changes that are just enough to turn repetition into enchantment.  

2 thoughts on “On Musical Yakisugi: Taylor Dupree’s “rem” (2022)

  1. The use of artifacts and “background noise” is interesting isn’t it. In a recording it has an effect like reverb creating a concert hall etc feeling, only the space invoked is a recording or broadcasting space. I keep telling myself to leave and use the strengths of space and then failing to do it. This reminds me again.

    1. Yes noise can conjure an acoustic space or just be another layer of sonic interestingness. Our ears are always trying to identify sounds’ contexts anyway so it makes to incorporate those contexts into our recordings.

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