People arrive on the shores of Formosa following different muses. Some seek knowledge. Some seek money. Some seek adventure. Some just want to be themselves.
Songwriter, singer, & guitarist Nathan Javens falls into the latter category. On more than one occasion he has expressed to me, with great emphasis, that his muse is music. For musicians, that muse lives inside us, as well as around us. As I see it, this is what he’s here for - on this planet, on this island, in this life - to simply be himself, making sounds. For foreign artists in Taiwan, there are not so many glass ceilings as there are dark concrete slabs overhead. But no matter, Nathan has still gone about his way.
You have likely enjoyed Nathan and his bandmates Moshe Foster, Thomas Squires, and John Snowdon over the years through their various other bands and projects: Public Radio, High Tide, The Homo Jews, Neon, and Collider. That’s a lot of bands. It is easy to conclude they share the same mission: to live a musical life.
Blind Acid Date, helmed by Nathan, is a collective work by veteran artists, serious about their craft. Their pooled skills, talents, and understanding have served them well on this 5 song EP. It is a recording brave enough to know when to restrain itself and when to release its energy. It is the sound of experience: a confident document of life’s adventures, never forced, never jaded, but a touch wise and even a bit wily.
Tralala struts through the tale of a romantic adventure, while the vocal delivery of Every Day is a Battle captures a slight Beck vibe. Thomas’ lovable, relaxed bass leads the way with its easy bounce, dropping in a heavy moment towards the end for kicks.
With elements of psychedelic, blues, and pop rock, the album’s dominant sound evokes Americana throughout, from touches of the SouthWest’s open and dramatic landscapes to crashes of surfy tremolo (particularly on Faded Lights and Submission - my favorite). I really enjoy Moshe’s atmospheric guitar work - it’s intelligent enough to complement each song instead of demanding attention. All in all, the first four tracks are a sort of Wilco meets Friends of Dean Martinez sonic excursion.
It seems fair to say that one of the band’s other big influences is The Velvet Underground, who are honored on the final track, New Shoes.
Says Nathan, “I wrote New Shoes as a story inspired by The Velvet Underground's "The Gift". After I wrote it I thought about putting music to it. Then I realized I had a Welshmen in my band so I had Tom read it. I did the other voices.”
The balance between music and narration favors the storytelling, and thus the piece feels a bit outside the otherwise natural flow of the preceding songs. Placed at the end of the disc, however, it is not so much of a problem. The Gift was mixed left-right, so each element had equal volume. On New Shoes, while the story and its reading are well done, I simply enjoyed the album’s music so much leading up to this finale that I wanted to hear it a bit more upfront on this track. That said, I wasn’t privy to the recording process, and placing it more in the background probably created less of a conflict.
Speaking of conflict, that in fact seems to be the lyrical theme of the Nathan’s songwriting, and Blind Acid Date have presented his thoughts with maturity and poise. There’s no anger in the telling of these conflicts; it’s more straightforward and matter-of-fact. It’s just cool, hanging out in a “hey, man” kinda way.
Foreigners have been contributing to the musical life of Taiwan for as long as there have been humans, whether from China, Japan, the Philippines, or the West. Enjoying and communing is what music is meant for, to expand the conversation of life. Each sound, instrument, or idea we hear is like is a gift. And here we have one more present to open. Who doesn’t like gifts?
*While the best things in life are said to be free, there is something even better than: supporting independent artists. The band is presently in the dreaded “hiatus” status, so interested parties can acquire this gem (with its individual, handmade covers) by contacting the band directly through Facebook, Indievox, or Bandcamp.