[Album Review] Joshua Van Tassel- Dance Music: Songs for Slow Motion
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by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: March 25th, 2014
Label:Backward Music

Multi-instrumentalist Joshua Van Tassel offers up his most electronic work to date. That is not to say that there is less humanity here, far from it. Despite the ethereal ambience of the album, emotions such as hope, dread, fear and joy are ever-present and pervasive. However, these emotions are not articulated so much as evoked, making for a very personal experience on the part of the listener.

Consider, for example, the track “Two Animals That Don’t Exist, Falling In Love”. For me, there is mourning and sorrow in the plaintiff sounds of the violin as it plays above the more hopeful sounds of the omnichord and other backing instruments. In contrast, the strings on the surface of “Family of a Home” are playfully happy, even as they hover over the sombre bass notes below. As each person is a different well of experiences, the exact sentiments that the music draws out will vary somewhat, but it will most certainly resonate no matter who you are.

Aside from the composition, Van Tassel’s instrumental prowess is also impressive. On songs like “Two Souls Hands Hold” he employs guitar loops in much the same way as Brian Eno and Robert Fripp (although, on “In Your Arms Around Me” he sounds a lot more like The Edge) and the chimes and violin work on ”The Smallest Human” are haunting. The standout for me, however, is “I Thought You Saw My Ghost”. It is tempting to say that it is the quintessential ambient track with its layered dream-like sequences, but Van Tassel makes it all the more interesting by utilizing found sounds and even deliberately introducing surface noise. The latter technique is a means of pulling the listener out of their reverie by drawing attention to the actual medium, in the same way that an artist draws attention to the paint/canvas by using primitive brushstrokes.

By its very nature ambient music defies close scrutiny of its structure and content as it is intended to be heard in the background and not analyzed. For all of that, Van Tassel masterfully pulls off a piece of music that reaches into your being and plucks on the strings of your heart.