Artist Profile: Taro

Taro / 2020

Over the past month I have concentrated on writing my Best of 2020 lists, but on top of that I have explored the music of Taro, a Berlin-based electronic producer whose style ranges from bare textural Drone music to Downtempo Two-Step. His work will be featured at a new room at Meow Wolf in Denver, Colorado, but he has not yet released a proper album or EP. His music mixes emphatically textural sound engineering with the Formalism you might expect from a descendant of the Berlin scene, but what I actually find most pleasant about his work is its composition: Taro often makes two-part, transformative tracks. I’d like to introduce my thoughts on that aspect in the profile that follows.

His most recently self-released song is the above “Morgenröte LIVE TRACK,” a one-take performance on a modular synthesizer. As one might anticipate from that premise, the focus of the song is on the engineering work that has gone into programming the synth. If that were not the case, the artistic choice to compose on a single instrument in one take may lose significance (you might ask, why not write a piece for piano instead?). But certainly Taro’s engineering expertise succeeds. Its primary voice, which imitates a plucked instrument, plays a sparse “melody” run through an immense amount of reverb and delay. In counterpoint we hear a buzzily resonant sound (entering around 1:30). A call-and-response structure is suggested by their alternating rests, and this plays out as the track’s primary conflict, only occasionally built upon by an additional bass synth. This “call-and-response” it what I wish to draw our attention to in terms of the above-mentioned “two-part, transformative” aspect of Taro’s composition. Which is to say, what begins as a song focused on a single, intermittently entering-and-exiting voice turns into a track based around the conflict between two such voices. The former focus is obviously nothing new and is in fact typical of Drone music, but it’s exactly the song’s development and inversion of that typical Drone structure interests me most.

On the other hand, Taro’s work from 2019, such as “The Suffler” above, leans into Post-Garage with mild techno influence. Its 4/4 rhythm section contrasts with the shuffling bell melody and arped synths. The song’s first half proceeds as on might expect of Post-Garage, occasionally adding new and increasingly acidic instruments and plugins. This development stutters out around the two-minute mark, at which point the song alters its primary melody into a triplet jaunt. The synths begin to decay with some kind of distortion or bit-crushing effect that slowly consumes its typically Post-Garage instrumentation and transforms the whole song into something much more severe than its first half. Again, it is this transformational two-part structure that really makes the track something unique.

Likewise, the quick-moving “Lurk” begins with a variety of Industrial Techno or EBM elements, including a sharp, cutting bassline, tactile drum clanks, and echoing synth-vocals. But the entrance of deep, cello-like down-strokes just past the one-minute mark usher in a change of tone, after which the tracks becomes significantly darker. A new bell section adds a certain amount of creepy atonality. The synth-vocals come back as prolonged chords. A revolving, slightly resonant synth introduces a new melody and carries it on until the song’s abrupt end.

These three songs’ respective focus on different modes of compositional transformation across a number of genres ultimately make Taro an interesting artist to keep an eye on over the next year or two. I await his debut album with some curiosity to hear how his style of writing music may develop over the course of 30 or 40 minutes.

You can read more about Taro on his website here.

By Isak McCune

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