TAIWAN is an experimental recording artist from Edmonton who creates a breed of ethereal jazz infused ambient music that harkens back to the sound of forgotten direct to VHS romance and horror movie soundtracks. While the music is already creepy enough there is an added eeriness from the tape crackle and hiss to the spot on replication of such an obscure sound; BELLADONNA is a 30 minute 18 track foray into the sounds of something lost and forgotten in time, something strangely romantic, familiar and alien, and nostalgic yet new all at the same time.

While the idea of replicating old film scores and bringing a modern twist to them is nothing new (see Zombi, Bohren & der Club of Gore), the type of music that TAIWAN replicates and how similar his interpretations are is where this album shines. TAIWAN’s lo-fi aesthetic and attention to detail in recreating such an obscure sound is surely an art form within itself.

The sounds on BELLADONNA are mostly cheesy Casio style synth arrangements. TAIWAN’s sound is very 80’s-esque inspired new wave, kitschy with what would be the sonic equivalent of some old VHS tapes, forgotten in someone’s basement, the tapes damaged by so many floods and worn out by constant fast forwarding, rewinding, and playing. All of the tracks, although different in style are tied together by their easy listening sound from gritty detective noir themed jazz to sensual piano ballads. It evokes a powerful nostalgic response bringing back memories of wooden paneling and grainy discolored photography, memories that even if one had never experienced are still able to evoke a sense of mystery and wonder that is just as visceral.

The album’s sound is contributed heavily to the phenomenon of nostalgia; instead of rejecting these old sounds it embraces the archaic, taking it back and reworking it into something partially new and listenable even if it still deliberately holds ties to the past. Part of me really enjoys this aspect of replicating, or more accurately this reworking of something old and obscure into something even more strange yet part of me wonders if it would be possible to expand on something like this. The future, a concept TAIWAN openly rejects is quickly closing in and I wonder where the project is going to go when it is confronted with the idea of just that, the future.

TAIWAN has turned drone and ambient music, two genres so focused on a futuristic sound into something old yet new at the same and while I do feel that this stylistic decision is extremely limited in a world where time is quiet literally speeding up I can’t deny the uniqueness that BELLADONNA possesses and the firm hold that these curious and eerie tunes have on that nostalgic longing for the past that everyone possesses from time to time.

Overall rating: 7.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘B04’, ‘B05’

Recommended: Meat Force

Released: 11 November 2011

Links: Listen to Belladonna on Bandcamp


Mark Przybylowski – Lonely House

Recorded in Philadelphia, PA, Lonely House is the latest tape from multi-instrumentalist Mark Przybylowski, released on Galtta Media.

At the foundation of Lonely House are a collection of seven quiet and simplistic instrumental pieces that rely on it’s ambience, not in a textural sense but more so this overall stripped down nature of the music allowing the listener to focus in on one or two prominent instruments at a time putting Przybylowski’s tender and moody playing style at the forefront of Lonely House. There is never really a whole lot going on and all of the songs stay at a similar pace, each track taking it’s time, which isn’t a bad thing at all, it actually adds a good deal of consistency to the album which is necessary for something as skeletal as this is.

The songs here are primarily made up of cold acoustic guitar, serene cello, and the warm hum of the double bass. There are also a few occasions where vocals are used, albeit, they are used sparingly and expressively in the sense of another instrument as opposed to their traditional use in singing lyrics, which being an instrumental release their are none of.

Everything sounds very nice, each instrument is played delicately, never breaking free from the somber steady pacing. The sound quality has a very upfront home recorded sound about it; the shrill screeching of fingers sliding up the neck of an acoustic guitar, the natural room reverb, minimalist song structure; it all carries a sincere message, something that says: “Hey, this is some sad sounding instrumental stuff and this is what you’re going to get, I hope you like it but if you don’t that’s ok too.” In general I feel like this album would be suitable for a nice autumn night’s listen or a winter’s evening by the fire place. The tranquil gloom that is presented here evokes memories of watching the trees lose their leaves, oranges and reds raining down, painting the earth as it prepares to renew itself, to briefly die for the winter. Its a very emotive piece of music, something like a poetry of the senses, an album that doesn’t try to sound sad but just is and even so, this sadness isn’t necessarily overt; like a long sigh, the music just breathily moves, carrying itself from one note to the next, passively moving along until the album’s end.

Although I enjoy the low-key feeling of Lonely House its biggest flaw is exactly what it succeeds in doing. For some, the lines between consistency and repetitiveness will be marred; the seemingly purposeful restrained nature of every track can feel monotonous. It isn’t a huge problem seeing as this is kind of the appeal of the album but it does hold it back from what I think could have the potential to be even more emotive and touching than it already is. Lonely house is definitely a moody set of tracks, it’s all kind of cold sounding, like the first chilly winds of fall, or the cold bite of winter but at the same time, it’s just as warm, touching on the senses with every slow moving stroke of the bow or pluck of the strings and better yet, it’s just in time for the summer’s end.

Rating: 7.2

Favorite Tracks: ‘Slow Winter’, ‘Sunday’

Recommended: Prime Winter / Fall listening.

Released: 15 July 2012


Lonely House via Bandcamp

Visit Galtta Media

Balmy – Metaverse

Mataverse is the first release by producer Balmy, formally known as Atmosfear.

So I used to have this problem a long while back with listening to instrumental hip-hop and strictly beat oriented music in general. The biggest problem for me was attempting to maintain an interest, not becoming bored with what you are given; that being these linear constructions that I felt would so easily be made listenable with some raps thrown in overtop. Musician’s such as Flying Lotus and Blockhead were some of the first that turned me on to instrumental hip-hop mostly due to their listenability, the idea of hearing their music as established pieces that I could feel involved in and draw emotion from. As musicians their instrumentals seemed to pull everything together allowing me to hear it as more than just a nice background jam which is exactly what Balmy has done for me as well. ‘Metaverse’ is a twelve track collection of tranquil and pretty beats built on samples, lush synth patterns and great compositional arrangements that is experimental and nonlinear enough to listen to as is while still containing enough versatility for ambitious rappers to attempt to spit over. These psychedelic arrangements of pretty synths and sequences of downtempo jazz and hip-hop are perfect easy listening.

The smoothness that the album starts out with is maintained masterfully throughout making for an easy and relaxing listen that shows Balmy knows how to create a good vibe and just stick with it throughout. Even though the music is dominantly downtempo it goes without saying there are plenty of great bleeps, bloops, and unconventional noises to keep you entertained during a number of relaxing events, whether it be just lounging around with your friends, going to sleep, or just listening. All of the tracks remain at a steady pace all ranking in at under 4 minutes, a good length that ensures things don’t get boring.

‘Old Hall’ is a track brimming with tons of spacey futuristic sounds that is truly a treat for the ears. Tracks such as ‘Woob’, ‘Space Cruise’, and ‘Space Lounge’ have this old dusty record feel that harbors a sense of nostalgia and sounds like they would fit right at home playing during an Adult Swim bump. All of the tunes feature samples derived from traditional instruments which makes it hard not to get caught up in trying to analyze every aspect of the music and the sounds sampled to create it; these quick snippets of guitars, orchestral instruments, bells and chimes, all so warm and familiar. It happens so quick that it is almost subliminal but at the same time you don’t not want to pay attention.

An impressive album full of enjoyable mellow tunes that although sounds like you may have heard this before (Cosmogramma) you’ll definitely want to hear it again… and again and keep hearing it just to be able to digest it all. If you’re into Flying Lotus or Long Arm this will be a treat.

Overall rating: 8.3

Favorite Track: ‘Protura’, ‘Old Hall’

Recommended: Flying Lotus and Long Arm.

Released: 06 February 2012

Links: Mellow out on Bandcamp


Less Deceived



Less Deceived, yet again. I have just realized one of the facts of reviewing soundcloud accounts is, at least for the most interesting stuff, periodically I’ll have to update the reviews. And you know what, Less Deceived, this Theo Jackson guy, might just be my favorite music in the entirety of soundcloud and bandcamp. Some other guys I reviewed here rival it, of course, such as Àlfheimr and Victor Florence, but there’s something about this music that I love – and it pains me in butt that this guy doesn’t allow me to download it. But putting that aside.

He doesn’t have that many plays and, though I have favorited absolutely everything on sight, not many people have done the same, and I understand that. Most of the people making independent music today focus on creating either pretty or interesting sounds or respond to the absolute freedom of independent music by coming up with bordering insane concepts for concept albums (which I’m guilty of, having one concept album out and polishing two at the moment), and since that’s what everyone is doing, that’s what everyone is interested on as well – and that’s leaving aside all the electronic dance stuff, which is a world of itself.

So I see how this can pass unnoticed, and that’s a shame, because what this guy is doing is perfecting the good old songwriting craft, and I find that’s more relevant to his music than its jazz style itself. I’ll put it this way: if I had to choose between being able to deliver all of the prettiness that Àlfheimr is capable of coming up with, or being able to write these perfect little love songs that Theo Jackson writes, I’d choose the latter. Isn’t that the essence of being a fan, at least from the fellow artist’s viewpoint, the envy of their talent and the desire to do something as powerful?

And that’s why I go for Less Deceived when I want a a bit of a class on contemporary pop songwriting, even though I don’t really write much of that. I find the chord progressions, the bass lines, the interesting piano playing, the subtle drumming, the way the main melodies are so careless in themselves, but so precise in relation to the music, all the while being so emotional and pretty, and such good singing, all of these stuff, I find them flawless and deeply satisfactory. I couldn’t point out anything wrong in these songs, I wish there were three times as many, or decades’ worth of a discography, and I wish I had free time to listen to it until exhaustion like I could do with Dylan as a young man.

But anyhow. The immediate reason for this review is that, in addition to the four songs in their account at the time of the first review, they have recently uploaded what appears to be the full recording of a show at The Troubadour. I know it’s a traditional place and all, but I’m not sure this means a successful career or anything, which is a shame, I wish these guys can achieve well-earned success in the short term. I can’t think of a good reason why some of these tracks can’t be hits of some sort.

So I strongly recommend you go there now and listen to both his home recordings and his live recordings. Maybe you have, such as I, grown a bit weary of concept albums involving Charlemagne’s brother and other pedantic shit and, again such as I, feel like listening to perfectly well-crafted little love songs in a jazz setting. If you feel a little bit like that, click the applets above and have a ball, this is some great stuff.

Also, apparently the drummer manages the soundcloud account. Turn on the downloads dude, fucking ask for some money at least. Pic related.

(a mediafire link will work too)


Less Deceived


Less Deceived

This guy right here is in another level. It’s jazz though. He is apparently gigging in England with his piano and his jazz band, but I was lucky enough to catch his soundcloud account with 4 tracks. I wish there were more. Damn.

The lyrics are nice and confessional, love conversation gold. Wait a minute, I’m listening to it now and it just begs for a cigarette.

Go to this guy when you get a bit bored by how straightforward rock and pop music in general is. You’ll find nice, rewarding musical structure and chord progressions with a kind of emotional singing you don’t usually find in rock unfortunately. Those jazzy Tom Waits albums maybe? It’s not Tom Waits, but he has a distinctive voice of his own, I’m sure I would recognize him if he asked me for the time or something.

It’s never pedantic, 2deep4u jazz wankery, so relax. These are love songs with feeling and choruses and everything. That nice double bass sound and laid back drums are there though. The lyrics have a nice contemporary feel and are well crafted. This is some of the best music I have found on the web, I go back to it regularly, recommend it effusively. Hope this guy comes up with an album soon or else I’ll just have to go to England and illegally record his concert.