About

Jacob Taswell Wide.jpg
 


I am a Denver-based composer and producer making electro-acoustic music. My music opens private spaces of possibility in a largely public and defined world.

In 2019 I released the five-track EP Jamais Vu on New Amsterdam Records’ Windmill Series. Based on the sounds and styles of rock bands that I have long admired, the music on the EP confronts the opportunities and limitations of my artistic practice as a solo producer. Making the EP began with a commitment to the most basic, unrefined elements available in a Digital Audio Workstation: stock virtual instruments and lo-fi audio recorded with my laptop’s built-in mic. I used stock plug-ins to process these elements, and I patterned the sounds note by note — painstakingly, without MIDI controllers — across complex, flowing rhythmic spaces. Through this process, I aimed to parse and replicate the human feeling deeply embedded in the music I love.

This approach was full of paradoxes, the most obvious being that I spent large amounts of time alone in a virtual environment trying to reproduce the spontaneous musicality of a live band. But that was kind of the point of the project. Apart from that, my DIY impulse to use simple, readily available sound sources clashed with my desire to make an immersive headphone album with studio-quality sound. The raw, transparent aesthetic of DIY eventually lost out to my perfectionist need to edit and tweak my mixes. I would describe the results as neither raw nor sonically perfect.

But there was an existential conflict that outweighed the others. The sense of purpose, even of creative euphoria, that I felt at times during the project — and that ought to have guided me dependably throughout — was continually hollowed out by a persistent question: What is the value of this project to anyone else? I struggled especially to articulate how this work could be worthwhile today, as our society and our physical world plunge ever deeper into crisis.

Jamais Vu captures the tension for me between private consciousness and shared reality. Reality can be a shock to the system: an unending flow of distractions, rapid transportation between disconnected places, constant pressure to relate to other people. In contrast, the music and the artwork of Jamais Vu speak powerfully of my experience of an intense state of creative focus and social isolation. In this state, I encountered difficult and dark thoughts as I purged real-world “distractions” from my experience. I became obsessed with existential questions, and in time I became aware of encountering objects, settings, and people from my daily life as if from a distance. Experiencing the loss of something in each of these moments was extremely unsettling. The album expresses all of this as a complex emotional landscape.

The process of making music I employed on this album represents an exaggerated version of inward withdrawal, but I believe many people can identify with the basic introverted impulse. Through this identification, Jamais Vu provides an abstract, musical setting in which to form new understandings about introversion, mental health, and the relationship between the real and the virtual.

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In 2017 I started a recording project called Altered Axiom, composing, producing, and self-releasing the full-length album Insulation Kit. The album was my first major production effort and an initial foray into electro-acoustic composition. That year I also directed a theatrical production based on Insulation Kit that featured video and dance elements alongside the music.

I grew up in Maryland, where I learned to play blues piano and began writing songs at age ten. During high school I studied jazz piano and played in jazz combos. I also took up saxophone, guitar, and drums at various points. I studied composition at Yale College with Konrad Kaczmarek and Kathryn Alexander. After college, I received an introduction to post-genre music from William Brittelle in New Amsterdam Records’ first-ever Composers Lab.

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Artwork & photos on home page by Shu Ohno.