“Like the instrument that inspired it, the Ondes Martenot, Van Tassel’s Dance Music volume II is elegant and expressive, the score to a movie inside your head.
The Ondes Martenot (OHND mar-tə-NOH) is an elegantly intricate, deliberately complicated hand-built machine that lives with the theremin as one of the world’s earliest electronic instruments (c.1928). Its inventor, the cellist Maurice Martenot, was a radio operator in WWI and wanted to duplicate the accidental overlaps of tones between radio oscillators, but with the expressiveness and emotion of cello. The Ondes is a rare collectible now, but there is an option in the Ondea: Itself an exclusive membership, they’re Ondes modernized by Calgary’s David Kean.”
There are times when a release comes along that has no history attached to it for the potential listener / reviewer to hold onto. There are releases where if they come out on a certain label. mastered by a certain masterer or feature a certain artist or remixer that you can start to form an idea about it before you have either heard the release or read anything about it. This release is one that comes free from any trappings which when you listen to it you get a feeling of pure discovery. This release follows on from the first instalment from 2014 which was crafted for Van Tassel’s wife to use in her sessions as a craniosacral therapist – a touch based form of therapy which centres around the skull and the use of gentle touch to palpate the synathrodial joints of the cranium.
The pieces on this eight track, forty four minute album are composed by Joshua Van Tassel on Ondea, Therevox, piano, vibraphone, field recordings and electronics alongside The Venuti String Quartet which comprises Drew Jurecka – Violin, Rebekah Wolkstein – Violin, Lydia Muchinsky- Cello and Shannon Knights – Viola. As I alluded to at the top of this review this is the first time that Van Tassel has come across my radar even though he has been releasing music for close to a decade and a half and has involvement with the Canadian Folk/Indie band Great Lake Swimmers as well as recording a bunch of Canadian musicians / groups, winning awards and being a remixer. I find myself, after listening to a release such as this, mentally adding another artist to the “check out” list. Quite simply “Dance Music Volume II: More Songs For Slow Motion” is rather breath taking.
I have been listening to this release as a whole as it has the quality of being an entire piece rather than a collection of tracks. The pieces nicely marry electronics alongside ambience and modern classical to create music that is infused with beauty, care, tenderness and a healthy dose of light and hope. A quality that makes them standout is the way in which they seem so effortlessly good. Nothing feels forced or contrived, rather you are transported to a place which is very much the sort that the world is screaming out for. If anything this would be the perfect soundtrack to isolation or quarantine as it has a calming approach without leaning to heavily towards the more melancholic nature that modern classical music can express.
Tracks like “Nest Of Light” which evokes so much with such a minimalist palette and “The Conjurer” which has a nice balance of strings and electronica are two distinct sounding pieces, but both demonstrate that Van Tassel is a serious composer and one with a cinematic vision to rival most. A piece like “Eternal Turtle” despite it’s out there title is a sweeping slice of delicious musical contemplation, while “Their Hands On Their Hands” has a restrained introspection and great use of space and silence that fills so much in between the notes. I have mentioned half the tracks on the album but the real success is that all good easily be mentioned as none are filler, they all are exceptional. “Dance Music Volume II – More Songs For Slow Motion” is an outstanding work that currently remains a Digital only release (alongside a seed enhanced Silk Screen print which can grow flowers), but it would be great to see it receive a physical release and touch as many people as possible as it is that special. This album is highly recommended.