Black Taffy Waves the Opal Wand

Chris Daly takes a look at the tranquility in the Dallas producer's latest full-length.
By    June 17, 2020

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Your little waves are no match for Chris Daly‘s pedal board.

By this point, the walls are starting to close in as paranoia about what tomorrow may bring reaches a feverish crescendo. In lieu of scream-crying, sometimes you just need a safe, quiet space to regain whatever sense of normalcy and peace you once held. Black Taffy, aka Donovan Jones, seems to get this on an almost mystical level, and his Opal Wand is the healing salve that we all could use a little more of these days.

On the album, his second for the Leaving Records label, Black Taffy claims as his own a specific, offshoot branch of the chillhop family tree. Whereas much of the genre tends to focus on bebop and more-recognizable-as-jazz originals, the Dallas producer instead dug deep into the crates of earlier, more experimental big band sounds. The result is an almost Disney soundtrack-like array of strings and woodwinds samples over stuttering, hypnotic percussion. Think somewhere between St. Vincent’s Actor and hazier beat scene luminaries like Teebs, Mecca:83, Somni and their ilk.

While the overall vibe never strays out of lo-fi, downtempo territory, BT does a remarkable job conveying a wide range of emotions, from the oddly uplifting strings and ethereal backing snippets on “A Foxes Wedding” to the more somber and plaintive “Palms Up.” Not content to play in the same sandbox for long, Taffy moves beyond traditional American musical instrumentation to incorporate such detours as the Asian-influenced “Snow Fantasie” and “Pillow Urchin,” neither of which would feel out of place soundtracking your favorite kung-fu flick of choice (definitely not for fight scenes, but a must for tea house encounters and jumping from bamboo stalk to bamboo stalk).

“Opal Wand felt really right because, first of all, opal is a semi-precious stone,” according to Jones. “It’s super soft. A wand that’s made of opal technically couldn’t really exist because it would break really easily. It’s kind of like this object that the concept exists, but the physical form can’t really exist, so it’s kind of like a nod to these vaporwave ideas where people are making soundtracks for a video game that doesn’t exist … the concept is there but the physical form can’t really exist.”

Calming words for too hectic times.

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