|“extremely atmospheric” – York Calling
“an ambient weighted blanket we can’t wait to slip under” – CBC Music
The ambient music upon which Joshua Van Tassel has built his reputation has often been pushed by large concepts: the life cycle of a giant squid, a sci-fi folk tale, a custom score for craniosacral therapy. Those compositions lean long, psychedelic, grandiose—music for the sonic intellectual.
For the follow-up to 2020’s Dance Music Volume II, he’s taken a new approach, smaller in scope without sacrificing focus: lullabies for adults, arranged for a quartet, written at night while the rest of his household slept, not a one crossing three minutes. The result is The Recently Beautiful, a collection of hushed dream fodder and gentle aural nightcaps.
“The music billows out in an organic way, phrase leading to phrase, one long vibrating note spilling into the next without the guardrails of rhythm or measure…This music stirs you like a memory.” – Aquarium Drunkard
– order LP/DIG / watch video for Smiles Displaced –
“I wanted to feel the feeling of listening to really beautiful deep music, but for a really short time,” says Van Tassel, who wrote a song at the end of every night for nearly two months straight to arrive at these 13. “You can sink into that: that was a beautiful moment in my day. And you can have it again.”
Other than reverb added in post, what you hear is what was played, and captured—the mournful interplay of minor notes on “Blown Clean Through,” the climax and denouement of “Smiles Displaced,” the minute-long rainfall of “Unity Rain,” the symphonic lift of “We’d Leave Together,” crickets duetting with strings on “We See The Same Moons.”
Before he returned home to rural Nova Scotia with his young family, he recorded these songs in Toronto alongside Robbie Grunwald (piano) and Drew Jurecka (violin and viola), with Van Tassel on his trademark Ondea.
“Robbie and I talked about playing slowly, quietly and consistently, but still have intention and intensity,” he says. “It’s so much harder than loud and fast. The difference between him pressing a key and not making any sound and pressing a key and making a sound—I’d say ‘That’s where you need to be, for the next 10 hours.’”
It was a process of distillation and instinct, a new approach by its maker, who wants listeners to turn to The Recently Beautiful at night to help them process the day via pleasing melodies, delivered with quiet grace.
“Sometimes,” he says, “it feels like there’s not a lot of places to find beautiful things and a place to live in that for a short amount of time.”
So he created one.