"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Monday, 31 December 2012

Evening fog

Both because of its longevity & its fiercely non-strident aesthetic, LMYE's Label of 2012 is easily overlooked. So long an essential part of the fabric of what we term 'less obvious music', it can seem that 12k - the standard-bearer for accretion over assertion - has always been there.

Lauding its
output this year is partly a prod against complacency over a treasured imprint, then. No label is just 'there', least of all in the current environment. Sustaining one - especially one that works with more challenging music of limited commercial appeal - is clearly a struggle. The most obvious dimension: piracy that brings "nothing but hurt", as 12k founder Taylor Deupree notes in an exclusive interview below. 

Recognition (which follows its earlier selection as 'staggering consistency label' in our first set of label awards, back in 2009, & adds it to Type, Low Point, Experimedia & Room40 in our roll call of overall winners) is also about celebrating what will go down as an exceptional year - even within a body of work as rich & deep as 12k's over the past decade & a half. Framed by
two Japanese-inflected (like so much of its output) pieces - the exquisite, jisei-enjoined Zen songs of Steve Peters & Steve Roden's Not A Leaf Remains As It Was in February (one of our Furtive 30 essential 2012 releases) & the 'supergroup' (Tomoyoshi Date, Marcus Fischer, Corey Fuller & Simon Scott in tandem with Deupree) Between's gorgeous self-titled Kyoto performance in December - the label unveiled a thrilling, near-flawless run of misty, intensely textured releases

Further key moments in this were Scott's glowing, dense Below Sea Level (previous coverage); Kane Ikin's hazily blurred & warped Sublunar (another Furtive 30 pick; NB: each LMYE co-author was limited to one release per label/artist); & Deupree's spare, delicate Faint, as well as Stephan Mathieu's Coda (For WK) - rightly blurbed "a journey into the essence of sound".  

This sequence further refined what Deupree characterises as 12k's "hushed & delicate" sound, adding impressionistic warmth. It & other releases also carried the label towards a more acoustic, sometimes voice-centred music. It explained the two developments as "continuing to move away from the “electronic” tag" & "further play[ing] the line between experimental electro-acoustic sounds and structured music."

While Deupree offers a valuable reminder below of previous "eras" in the 12k sound, he also concedes (of Gareth Dickson's Quite A Way Away (featured on of Mountain7's outstanding best of the year list, incidentally...)) that "if you played me this album 14 years ago and told me i was going to release it i wouldn't believe it." He relates this to his & the label's identity. "12k is always simply a reflection of my own tastes and continues to evolve and change."

Even so, for a 15 year-old label to still be pushing at the boundaries of its sound (also this year via the subversive post-pop of The Boats' Ballads Of The Research Department) seems like a powerful index of vitality. 

So too its appetite for extending the scope of physical formats - most obviously in the case of Scott's 80-page book of geography & memory in the East Anglian Fens that accompanies Below Sea Level. The recent Faint boxed set (augmented with photographs & a bonus CD), as well as that of Deupree & Fischer's earlier In A Place Of Such Graceful Shapes (photos & a 7"), are further instances. 

What next? Further Deupree collaborations, a second Illuha album & a new solo Fischer are scheduled for the new year. Several vinyl releases are due too. 

But the most tantalising prospect is an undefined format innovation Deupree reveals below ("it's not USB, but it's taking a lot of work and will be a really exciting development for some time to come"). Whether this relates to the beguiling Mono/logues video that recently trailed 'A new series, coming in 2013' is not yet clear. But while only a fluttering moment the clip offers much in any case...     

How has 12k developed this year? Have you done anything different in 2012? Anything new you want to keep doing now it's started?
"i think the obvious thing that sticks out this year was the release of the gareth dickson CD. 12k has obviously explored guitars and acoustic sounds over the years but to have something so straightforwardly singer/songwriter is quite different. if you played me this album 14 years ago and told me i was going to release it i wouldn't believe it. it just reinforces the fact that 12k is always simply a reflection of my own tastes and continues to evolve and change.

starting late last year, with mine and marcus fischer's "in a place of such graceful shapes" boxed set and continuing this year with simon scott's "below sea level" book edition and my own boxed set for "faint" i think the idea of expanded physical packaging is something 12k will do more of going forward."

Did you always expect to make it to your 15th anniversary? Do you anticipate following Touch's lead & making it to your 30th?
"i never had a doubt about that. 12k is who i am and i will always do it even if the music industry falls apart so totally and no one needs labels anymore... that it becomes a label i release only my own work on. i see no reason why i would stop doing it. it's not terribly profitable, which is a good thing. it doesn't need to make enough money to make business partners happy, it only needs to make enough to print the next release.

i started the label in 1997.. january 1st ..... so, jan 1st 2013 will mark 15 years complete.. onto the 16th year... it's great!"

Is being an US label significant for 12k? How do you assess the state of US 'experimental' music currently?
"i think being a US label has hurt 12k over the years. there are certain distributors and magazines that seem quite anti-US... like the people and artists are as bad as our politics, which simply isn't the case. there is so much great music being made in the US, but it's never been as "cool" of a place as a lot of other countries so it never gets taken as seriously. it's a weird thing, but it's been on my mind a lot since i started the label."

Do you see yourself & the other 12k artists as working in any kind of tradition? Is there a 12k sound or typical artist? 

"i don't think any of us are thinking about traditions or genres or trying to fit into one thing or another, we're just creating what comes naturally and exploring techniques that interest us. most of the current crop of 12k artists are pretty firmly rooted in what they do and have developed their own styles after years of creating. it's not so much about fitting in or putting themselves in a certain niche, just more about creating and doing what they do, and let the press or listeners place them wherever they want for whatever reasons they need to. 12k definitely goes through periods of sound as the years go on. periods that get marked as "eras" in 12k by the general sound. it meanders and evolves as the years go by. i don't think, at this point, i would be very eager to categorize 12k though recently there's definitely been a marked move towards hushed and delicate music."

Any 12k artists you believe merit more attention than they've had so far?

"all of them, of course! it's always the lesser-known ones, though, who perhaps just release one album and then sort of disappear from the light a little bit. artists like jodi cave or motion... such brilliant, beautiful releases but no one hears much from them anymore!"

How do you see 12k developing in the future? Any new artists you can mention &/or forthcoming new releases from established 12k artists? 

"i never like to project or guess how things will develop, i prefer to just let them go naturally. early in 2013 i hope that the new Illuha album will be ready, which is going to be a beauty. i've also got a couple of personal collaborations coming up which i'm excited about and will be on marcus fischer's case to finish a new one next year. the door is always open for established artists and we'll see about new artists. nothing planned yet."

Will you be releasing vinyl in future? Cassettes? Other media (DVDs/USB sticks/etc)?
"there's been 5 or 6 vinyl releases so far and that will continue in the future. i've got a vinyl-related series coming up in 2013 that should be pretty interesting as well. i'm not sold on cassettes as a final medium, though i do like the sound of them for recording.... DVDs.. perhaps... there has been a project on the back burner for too long already... USB sticks.. who knows? nothing's out of the question, i guess. there is a very exciting development we've been working on for the past few months that i hope sees the light of day in 2013 ...it's not USB, but it's taking a lot of work and will be a really exciting development for some time to come."

Mono/logues (2013) from 12k on Vimeo

Best thing anyone's said/written about 12k music? Worst?

"there's always the occasional negative review about an album, but i still love what the late alternative press magazine said about 12k many years ago which was "too minimal for its own good." i once turned that into a full page advertisement in a magazine. though lately i've been hesitant to throw around the term "minimalism" mostly because i try to stay away from any sort of genres or descriptors at all.

best thing? i'm touched by every positive review and kind word from listeners, though being compared once to factory records wasn't a bad thing. for all of factory's blunders and craziness, it's probably my main inspiration behind starting 12k."

How important is artwork to your releases? Who decides it?

"yes, of course, always. finding a visual theme was very important in setting up the label identity. i sort of took that idea from Fax records with its instantly recognizable package design. but 12k is also about a very anti-design aesthetic. by that i mean design that is very simple, nothing fancy, very much inspired by dieter rams and his ideas of functional design. the special editions and limited series gives me a chance to break away from the traditional 12k design to play around a bit more, but otherwise i'm really just trying to be as simple as possible.

i design all of the packages and do most of the photography for the covers. however, sometimes an artist will have a particular image they want to use and that's fine by me as long as it works with the overall aesthetic."

How challenging a time is this for labels? Are you tempted to go digital-only? Or the opposite?
"it's a very challenging time! almost entirely because of the pirating of music. on one hand it's a great time because we can offer releases in a variety of formats as well as downloads with many easy ways to purchase them. the social media outlets offer both a great way to reach fans but also make it a lot of work for us because we have to stay on top of all of these little areas.... but it's really the music pirates stealing the music that give us the most challenge. i don't care what argument they give for "helping" labels and musicians but it does nothing but hurt. i don't ask them to do their jobs for free and they shouldn't force that on us either.

digital only? i guess if you're going to talk about the death of 12k... that day would be if i ever decided to go digital-only. i have no desire to become a digital-only label and i've yet to meet one artist who prefers a digital release over a CD, vinyl or other physical format. yes, you're correct, it's quite the opposite. we'll be offering more music that's NOT available as download."

PS Where does the label's name come from?
"the name 12k came from the file size of midi song files on my computer during the creation of the album "12k" by one of my old musical projects (with Savvas Ysatis) called Arc. we released the album, as Arc, "12k" on KK Records (BE) in 1996 (it's now available digitally from 12k). i started the 12k label the year after and wanted to use that name for the label because it was short, abstract, mathematical, technical, and graphic. while technically it comes from "12k kilobytes" it can mean a few things.. like "12k kilohertz" or "12,000" or .. or it can mean nothing at all. most important to me now is that it's short and abstract and has taken on a life of its own."

Water Veins by Steve Peters & Steve Roden

Europa by Kane Ikin

Between (excerpt) by Between

Dreams Of Stairs by Taylor Deupree

_Sealevel.6 by Simon Scott

Kane Ikin - Rhea from 12k on Vimeo

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

O Come LMYE Faithful

A bit like a low-rent Pop Ambient, it’s become an annual tradition for LMYE to pop a peck of its Festive picks into a homespun cloud-mix (see 2010 and ’11), but with JL going over to the spotty side, you might wonder if rdio killed the mixcloud star. Well, we're keeping the cloud flag flying in this wing of Earslend Mansions with an alternative Furtive 30 version (n.b. leaning towards al picks as missing half of JL’s).

albient furtive30version (track list)
Lee Gamble - Digbeth
Heathered Pearls - Left Climber
Damian Valles - Movement III
Kyle Bobby Dunn - Diamond Cove (And Its Children Were Watching)
Drape - Solo in High Dreary
Gimu -You're No Longer On Sertraline Hydrochloride
Erstlaub - Marconi’s Shipwreck
Kane Ikin - Compression Waves
Silent Harbour - Aquatic Movement
Stephan Mathieu & Caro Mikaleff - Radioland [Panoramica]
Alex Cobb - The Immediate Past
Pausal - Fertiliser/Horticulture/Mower
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Blood Variations II
36 - Deluge
En - Elysia
Ian Hawgood - The Shattered Light
Radere - Good Evening, Ghosts (Version)
Fescal - Alchemical Wanderings
Thomas Köner - Novaya Zemlya 2
Robert Hampson - Antarctica Ends Here

Mix note: composed mainly of edits of long tracks seguing from one to another, sympathetic fades and felicitous overlaps were sought, 1 part design to 2 parts indeterminacy; final section diverges, running 2 tracks in parallel rather than in series to play Köner lows off against Hampson highs, the similarity of theme of geographical extreme providing further pretext for convergence.
Track sidenote: seeing as ’tis the season to be jolly and all, those with ears properly lent will find a seasonal note provided by Fescal, whose Ambient Drone recon of “Silent Night” starts at 1:13:30. 

Quick Yuletube: 

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Austere brace

rdioSpotify playlists for yesterday's Furtive 30 - a couple of 2-hour selections from many of the 30 releases that particularly mattered to LMYE in 2012. The two feature 36 Alex Cobb - Charlemagne Palestine & Janek Schaefer Damian Valles Duane Pitre En Gabriel Saloman - Heathered Pearls - Ian Hawgood - Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Kane Ikin - Kyle Bobby Dunn - Lee Gamble - Mike Shiflet - Pausal - p jørgensen -Robert Hampson - Stephan Mathieu & Caro Mikaleff Steve Peters & Steve Roden - Tetras - Thomas Köner. 

NB: to distribute the recognitions as broadly as possible, both co-authors' 15 picks were limited to one release per artist &/or label. Artists/labels could - & did - appear twice across the 30, though, as the constituent lists were compiled independently...

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Austere embrace

2012 brought many more great releases than 30, obviously. But after some increasingly expansive Festive 50s LMYE has embraced the austerity of the times. This year each co-author was confined to a more modest 15 picks, with no more than one going to any artist or any label & no smuggled expansion by throwing in multiple releases from the same name. 

Although these constraints could - & did - still accommodate two choices from the same stable across the co-authorial divide (policed by a strict Chinese wall, naturally...), they ended up regrettably harsh on some outstanding music - like Below Sea Level,  Portraits, Secret Photographs or Superstorms. All might well have bludgeoned their way into these ears' top 15 if the rules hadn't restricted 12k, Important & Experimedia to a single release each. The same goes for LINE, Low Point & Touch's output, incidentally. 

Similarly, even allocating his ravishing David Sylvian remix album Wandermude (out next month, but downloadable now...) to next year's list, a case could credibly have been made for including several Stephan Mathieu pieces. With the possible exceptions of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and 
(as The Liminal point out, ditto Marc Masters) Oren Ambarchi, it's challenging to think of an artist who had a more impressive year - though each of Kane Ikin's releases also resonated powerfully with us. 

Still, accepting that all such lists are a bit arbitrary, our goal was to distribute recognition as widely as possible. We'll anyway be back soon(-ish) with a more capacious supplementary list to try to capture everything else that stood out over the year.  

For now, though, & subject to the restrictions rehearsed above, these are 30 releases that particularly mattered to us in 2012. Each co-author is identified with their 15 picks, though note that both of us nominated Already Gone, I'll Make You Quiet, Novaya Zemlya & Radioland [Panoramica] originally...

36 Lithea (3Six; al)

Alex Cobb - Passage to Morning (Students of Decay; al)
Charlemagne Palestine & Janek Schaefer Day Of The Demons (Desire Path; jl)
Damian Valles - Nonparallel [In 4 Movements] (Experimedia; jl)
Drape - An Idea And Its Map (Infraction; al)
Duane Pitre - Feel Free (Important; jl)
En - Already Gone (Students of Decay; jl)
En/Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Split (Constellation Tatsu; al)
Erstlaub - Marconi’s Shipwreck (Broken20; al)
Fescal - Alchemical Wanderings (Time Released Sound; al)

Gabriel Saloman - Adhere (Miasmah; jl)
Gareth Hardwick/p jørgensen - S/T (Low Point; jl)
Gimu - All The Intricacies Of An Imaginary Disease (T.O.C; al)
Heathered Pearls - Loyal (Ghostly; al)
Ian Hawgood - The Shattered Light (Komu; al)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Visiting This World (EN/Of; jl)
Kane Ikin - Sublunar (12k; al)
Kyle Bobby Dunn - Bring Me The Head of Kyle Bobby Dunn (Low Point; al)
Lee Gamble - Diversions 1994-1996 (PAN; jl)
Mike Shiflet - The Choir, The Army (Under The Spire; jl)

Pausal - Forms (Barge; al)
Radere - I'll Make You Quiet (Futuresequence; al)
Robert Hampson - Repercussions (Editions Mego; jl)
Silent Harbour - Silent Harbour (Echocord; al)
Steinbruchel & Cory Allen - Seam (Quiet Design; jl)
Stephan Mathieu & Caro Mikaleff - Radioland [Panoramica] (LINE; jl)
Steve Peters & Steve Roden - Not A Leaf Remains As It Was (12k; jl)
Tetras - Pareidolia (Flingco Sound System; jl)
Thomas Köner - Novaya Zemlya (Touch; al)
Various Artists - 30 Years And Counting (Touch; jl)

Fescal - Alchemical Wanderings

Gabriel Saloman - 03

Ian Hawgood - The Shattered Light (album preview)

robert hampson - repercussions (album preview)

Moitié et Moitié - kyle bobby dunn

mike shiflet - the choir, the army (album preview)

Pausal - Fruiting Bodies / Liberty Capped

lee gamble - diversions 1994-1996 (album preview)

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Lend Me Your Headphone

Even in an era of mega-compilations, Headphone Commute's ...and darkness came is a giant. Not just for its epic scale, though at 87 tracks its self-description as "colossal" is an un-hyperbolic statement of fact, but for its ambition: "to benefit all of those affected by Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, which has devastated portions of the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States in late October 2012."

Specifically, HC will donate "100% of all the proceeds generated from the sale of this album." Beneficiaries are The Humane Society & the US arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres

The compilation costs $10 - 11.5 cents a track, value hounds. Though you can also opt to pay more.

Is it any good? The question of quality may seem in poor taste when the cause is exemplary or irrelevant when the price is so modest. But the contributors anyway include an alluring raft of LMYE alumni, including Lawrence EnglishEzekiel Honig (solo & with Mark Templeton), Erik K Skodvin, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Simon Scott (solo & in a quartet with Corey Fuller & Marcus Fischer, who also features solo), Kane Ikin, Kreng, Machinefabriek, Celer, loscil, ScannerBlack Swan & Radere - some with exclusives to satisfy trainspotting impulses... 

Probably very pompous, but: commended

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.
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