[sic] Magazine

James Chen – Taiwanese Folk Style

You may know Hewson Chen of The New Lines from his rather decent, 60s psych sounding concept album, Fall In Line. The chances are you, however, don’t know his father, James Chen. Back when the latter was knee high to a grasshopper in his native Taiwan, a chance encounter with some overheard “wild guitar noises” led him to pick up the instrument himself. After later emigrating for the US, he again found solace in his strings during the passing of the 80s. The wistful and curiously aquatic sounding Mandarin-language tales of “cicadas molting in the summer, the pleasures of leisurely sipping tea, and blooming Poinciana flowers” he penned then remain intact today, though thanks to his son and bandmate Davis White’s added guitar, synth and drums, they’ve now taken on a new life beyond the Taiwanese Folk Style that Chen Senior may have originally envisaged.

Given their makeover, Chen’s eight tracks, which last only a terribly fragile twenty minutes in total, are not evocative therefore of the traditional Oriental material you may be imagining. Instead they’re flighty, quite minimal examples of 60s psych-pop, lightly decorated with Western grooves and Eastern motifs. As a result, the album is far from some impenetrable curio. Bobbing along on carefully chosen and tasteful bouts of acoustic finger picking and/or the slightest hint of surf, it’s ethereal and dreamy stuff that comes on like being serenaded underwater, Chen’s quivering vocal lending these sun-dappled jams a deeply peaceful, cloud-gazing vibe. Yes, Taiwanese Folk Style sounds like the sort of offbeat oddball you’d hope to crate-dig out of obscurity for a couple of pennies, only then to become entranced by its fragrant beauty. Kick back and treat it like the welcome little ray of sunshine it is.

~Taiwanese Folk Style is out now on cassette via Moon Glyph.~