Meet TAIWAN. TAIWAN is not someone yelling the name of a nation via text, but a musical project born of Phillip Dickau’s musical compositions on a Casio keyboard with multiple cheesy presets. Dickau began writing pieces in the style of Angelo Badalamenti (an American composer known for his work on the soundtrack of the television show, Twin Peaks, and the film, Blue Velvet). Dickau was invited to play a show in 2011 and David Ferris accompanied him on electronics for that live set. Later, Ferris added drums in addition to his electronics and recruited Matthew McKenzie on upright bass. The trio we know as TAIWAN took shape.
TAIWAN is set to release a 12-inch split with Montreal’s Hobo Cubes on Pleasence Records this summer. “The record is our original live set, which came into focus once Matt had joined the band and is a pretty faithful representation of that set. It was recorded by Layne L’Heureux, with a minimum of overdubs or additions of anything that we didn’t do live,” explains Ferris. Their raw sound with polished compositions is a nice pairing with Hobo Cubes’ low-fi ambient sounds.
The tags on the band’s Bandcamp site include: “Direct-to-VHS romantic horror” and “experimental smooth jazz.” When I ask if they can elaborate, Dickau explains that what they perceive as history is forced into ten-year intervals, such as the ’80s and ’90s. “These discrete chucks of history are completely arbitrary. In another universe we slice the century up differently and history looks very different. TAIWAN emerged from hazy memories of the imaginary decade of 1985 to 1995.”
Even as the band moves away from its Twin Peaks roots (their shows have included a cover of “Laura Palmer’s Theme”), the imaginary decade and emotional manipulations of the style remain critical. “The influence of Badalemti’s play on musical expectations — often doing the disruptive opposite to what would normally be the contextually appropriate soundtrack, or simply magnifying the melodramatic nature of the music to the point where it became a sort of grotesque caricature — is an important part of our mentality,” adds Ferris.
This band is a must see live: you will quickly realize they don’t need a smoke machine to evoke a strong mood or emotion. Their set contains a string of songs that blend together seamlessly. Within each song, two unrelated pieces of music are often unified through a common key. Take a journey to an era that falls off the alignment of the standard calendar. TAIWAN will appear at the Sled Island Music festival, an appropriate addition to the bill of a festival that celebrates innovative and independent music.
As Dickau puts it, “[TAIWAN] is not a person, or a band, or a stage name: it’s an alternate reality that we are exploring.”
Catch Taiwan at Bamboo on June 19.
By Jenna Lee Williams
Photo: Levi Manchak