Joshua Van Tassel Fully Embraces His Classical Tendencies on 'Dance Music Volume II: More Songs for Slow Motion'

BY John AmenPublished Sep 8, 2020

Dance Music Volume II: More Songs for Slow Motion is a stylistic and visionary expansion on 2014's Dance Music: Songs for Slow Motion. As with the first release, Joshua Van Tassel's new iteration shows the composer mostly eschewing pop elements, including the accessible beats of 2018's Crossworlds. With Dance Music Volume II, his classical proclivities are brought fully into the forefront, the entire sequence benefiting invaluably from the presence of the Venuti String Quartet (violinists Drew Jurecka and Rebekah Wolkstein, cellist Lydia Muchinsky and violist Shannon Knights).

The album opens with "Muttering Spells," spacey minimalism segueing into dynamic fluctuations in volume, a sound at once ecstatic and meditative. "Conjuror-er" features an otherworldly refrain, a shimmering melodic line that recurs throughout the piece. The track expands texturally as it progresses, achieving symphonic heights. 

"Their Love Was Alive Before They Were Dead" opens with crystalline piano, bringing to mind work by Ludovico Einaudi or Fabrizio Paterlini, simple melodies complemented by string arrangements and a synth soundscape. "Shadows Smile for You" features a confluence of basic melodic elements and digital accents. Comparisons to Brian Eno are inevitable; however, unlike Eno, Van Tassel is oriented almost exclusively toward the epic, archetypal and grandly metaphysical.

"Their Hands on Their Hands" features an evocative blend of primitive piano lines and viola, the ambient setting proliferating into a palimpsest of roily sonics. On "Lost Without You," the album's closer, Van Tassel illustrates the process by which harmony, literally and metaphorically, often dissolves into discordancy and how, in turn, discordancy often resolves harmonically.

Dance Music Volume II is an ambitious undertaking on the part of Van Tassel and his supporting musicians (again, the contributions of The Venuti String Quartet can't be overemphasized). Volume II, like the series' first instalment, occurs as cosmic, etherial and celestial while remaining melodically and atmospherically tangible. Volume II, however, brings to more consummate fruition the themes and approaches introduced on its predecessor. With both projects, one observes Van Tassel aspiring, albeit in contemporarily electronic fashion, to the loftiness of the Romantics, including Beethoven and Brahms.

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