According to Joshua Van Tassel’s Bandcamp, his latest project is the “score to a movie inside your head.” With beautiful ambiance and delicate intricacy, Dance Music volume II: More Songs for Slow Motion lives up this description. Playing the Ondes Martenot, one of the first electronic musical instruments, Joshua’s work is both futuristic and traditional–a reflection of the starring instrument’s obscurity and age. The songs are beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, a goal of the artist that undoubtedly succeeded on this album. Where other artists might aim for experimentalism, Joshua aims for peaceful simplicity. Dance Music, Vol. II isn’t trying to be anything more than a lovely combination of sounds, and that’s why it often works so well.
Alongside the Ondes Martenot, Joshua employs piano, a string quartet, vibraphone, and field recordings. This results in tracks like “Nest of Light,” a loosely structured song that takes us on a mystical journey through sparkly, airy ambiance before climaxing in a gorgeously overwhelming explosion of sound. Other songs, like the closing “Lost Without You,” embrace the Ondes Marnenot’s similarities to the cello; rich tones bleed over a background of blurry noise as hints of the instruments’ electronic nature whisper around the edges. This combination of acoustic and electronic sound is one of the album’s strongest assets, a wonderful balance between styles. The beauty of this combination is hampered, however, by a few songs that cut off too soon, collapsing before reaching their potential.
Through ambient-drone influence and textured composition, Joshua’s songs embrace contrast. They feel like peaceful resolution between conflicting forces, a testament to the artist’s skill as a composer. However, the album’s cohesion goes a little too far, skirting monotony. At times, Joshua’s record feels like one song split into eight pieces. Maybe that was intentional, but more variety would be welcome. Still, the beauty is undeniable. Dance Music, Vol. II is an album to get lost in or an album to play in the background. Its sounds are meditative, focused, and pure. Hopefully, Joshua will double down on these elements in future work, creating pieces more careful to avoid cloned sounds and rushed endings.