Intricate music created to slow your mind.
Often when I read how a composer describes their work, you can spot interesting cliches that people fall into. Joshua Van Tassel, when speaking of his new album ‘Dance Music Volume II: More Songs for Slow Motion’, was very deliberate. ‘I don’t want to be begged as an ambient man.’ he said. ‘I love… the idea of making something that’s slow motion and beautiful. Its music as a function.’ That is exactly what we’ve got here with this stunning release.
To fully appreciate where I’m coming from with this, I want to refer back to 2014. Joshua Van Tassle made the first volume for his wife to use in her sessions as a craniosacral therapist. Whether you agree with alternative therapies or not, often the placebo is strong enough to make the change and music to slow the mind definitely works. Coming from that arena, Volume II is a delightfully expressive album.
Joshua works in fine and delicate layers of sound. Often there are strings swirling or peculating around a distant guitar or throbbing synth. The way the music lilts and wanes feel like faster pieces of music that have been slowed down to a crawl. It’s really quite clever because some of the instruments like the guitars or the ondes marenot feel stretched out whilst the piano or cello are delicately playing intricate pieces like shimmers in the light. It is this level of detail that raises the album way above the general shroud ambience that a standard ambient album often goes for. This has more in common with modern classical music but it is designed to feel like a satisfying musical yawn. Little motifs from lots of instruments sound like singular notes in a sped-up phrase – we are just hearing them distilled down to a crawling speed.
Whilst specific tracks do stand out, this album works best when taken as a whole. This is because of the relaxed nature of the beast. It takes time to adjust your mind and I am always on the go. ‘Muttering Spells’ a splendid opener to set the tone of calming you down. The track that really got me feeling in tune with the album was ‘Conjuror er’ though. It has a certain repetition to the strings and synths that felt like it was tapping into a hypnotic state of mind. I could have had that single track on repeat for an hour and not notice. Thankfully there are so many other beautiful pieces that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Only once with ‘Nest of Light’ does the album ever rise a dramatic breathe when a flurry of strings and synths veer towards something that could score a modern sci-fi movie. Even then, it is like an orchestral white noise so it still kept me relaxed.
Joshua Van Tassel has created a beautifully album for ugly times. Whilst some of the relaxation music we get feels a bit light weight, this feels like you are entering a calm mind palace and you are in control. When I first listened to this album, it was 2am and I ended up turning off all the lights in the room except for a glowing moon lamp I own. It felt like a special experience and I don’t get that with music dubbed as ambient often, if at all. Highly recommended.
Recommended track: Conjuror er
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