“I grew up between these hills, under the sun…”
Founded by Taylor Deupree in 1997, the 12k label now has spanned two decades refining its distinctly conceptual approach to experimental music with the intent of providing “a conscious counterpoint to the information overload of the 21st century”. Over that time, one could argue 12k has become more than just a label. It has become both a platform and a community for a group of creators with a shared aesthetic while embracing the distinctive qualities of their respective artistic voices. One of the guiding principles that Deupree has followed in nurturing the label and growing this community is to “evolve constantly, but slowly”. He has achieved this by continually curating new artists into the fold with an especially discriminating ear. The most recent of these is Michael Grigoni, a composer & multi-instrumentalist originally from the Pacific Northwest, who now lives in Durham, North Carolina and records under the name M. Grig.
Grigoni specializes in dobro, lap steel guitar, and pedal steel guitar and it is his layered, atmospheric approach to these instruments that brings something new to 12k’s sonic domain while managing to fit perfectly into its vision. Having produced several EPs and done a fair amount of film & session work, Mount Carmel is the first full length album by M. Grig and employs an approach that derives from his study of ethnomusicology while attending the University of Washington which introduced him to ethnography.
“Ethnography is a method for field-based research developed by anthropologists. The method involves spending time with people and learning about different ways of being in the world and taking notes while you do so—jotting impressions, observations, feelings, snippets of speech, sketching maps, landscapes. Putting experience to paper in the moment again and again over a lengthy period of time—for months, sometimes years. This sensibility colors my music; this layering of ideas, feelings, and textures. Something emerges, or is discovered or revealed, through this process. Combing sounds made with an instrument with sounds recorded in the field, blending and enfolding these sources, is deeply satisfying and grounding for me.” – M. Grig
The subject matter he explores with this approach is his own memory of time spent exploring the hills of Los Peñasquitos near San Diego, California while growing up.
“The neighborhood in which I grew up had only two streets, both of which wound into cul-de-sacs between an interwoven set of barren, gentle hills in Los Peñasquitos, California. Growing up, my mother, who immigrated from Mexico to the United States to marry my father, told me that “Los Peñasquitos” means “the hills with white rocks on them.” Today I am told by the internet that it means “little cliffs.” I spent a lot of time on those little cliffs, kicking through dust as I explored them, watching for rattlesnakes. Feelings anchored to material things constitute my memory of that place: the ice plant in our front yard we would step on to crush out its juice; the lava rock beneath the pine trees; the Santa Annas – hot, dry winds that would suddenly manifest in our backyard; the dry hills without trees, only brush – chaparral and sage – that I constantly climbed. This particular landscape permeates and orients the record for me.” – M. Grig
Rather than attempt to recreate this environment sonically, Grigoni’s impressionistic approach organically evokes a thoroughly pleasant state of mind through fine-grained textures and warm acoustics intertwined with the shimmering arcs and tremulous twangs of the steel guitars. Thus very specific childhood experiences and the contours of a very specific landscape are sublimated into something both universal and timeless. The call of memory and the response of nostalgia are beautifully represented here in unique fashion. The halcyon days of youthful summers will never be far away while this album remains close at hand.
Links: Bandcamp (CD/digital) | 12k Shop | M. Grig website
Mount Carmel will be available beginning May 10 on CD & digital and features cover art and insert painting by Hyewon Jin Grigoni. Pre-orders are now available.