Toronto musician Joshua Van Tassel is a drummer by trade, and has played with a number of bands in the city's alternative scene. However, though he does not want to be pigeonholed as an "ambient man," Van Tassel also composes glacially-paced, orchestral dance music, first for his wife to play during her sessions as a craniosacral therapist, and now independently. On his new album released on Backwards Music this Friday, Van Tassel uses the Ondea (a modernized version of the Ondes Martenot), piano, various electronics, as well as the help of chamber musicians to create a beautifully flowing piece of art. It truly seems to move in slow motion, and touches an emotional nerve.
Dance Music Volume II feels like a soundtrack, but to nothing necessarily specific. Van Tassel admits that while his approach is becoming a bit cliche at this point, he still wanted to be intentional about composing at a slow pace, layering melodies and leaving themes open to interpretation. He explains that "with instrumental music, there’s more room for you to plant your own story within it.” And in this case, the imagery he uses is quite literal. Halifax artist, Geordan Moore, teamed with Van Tassel to print the cover of Dance Music Volume II on seed paper, so the listener can watch wildflowers grow while sitting with the music.
Lead single Their Love Was Alive Before They Were Dead serves as the album's epic centerpiece, but the following track, Eternal Turtle, mirrors moods found on Clarice Jensen and Johann Johannsson's collaborative album For This From That Will Be Filled. If sweeping cinematic, intricately-composed orchestral music is your jam, (think Johannsson or Max Richter), Dance Music Volume II is a must-listen this Friday. It is a masterpiece from Joshua Van Tassel, but will be felt differently by each listener projecting their own emotions overtop the compositions.