Hewson Chen is a busy man. Besides playing guitar in the very excellent The New Lines, he has recently been earning high praise for the new Lake Ruth album, reviewed by me here, and now he's got yet another new project. Teaming up with some-time New Lines drummer (and Lorelei legend) Davis White, Hewson has released a very unique set of tunes this time around. Called Taiwanese Folk Style and credited to his father James Chen, the songs here represent not only a few different cultures but a few different generations as well.
The superb "Summer in Taiwan" kicks things off, all pulsing early Sterolab-style beats and wild little guitar licks behind James Chen's straightforward vocals. "By the Sea" takes a more gentle approach while "Chat Salon" bears traces of Taiwanese pop music from generations ago as well as a hint of the Durutti Column mixed throughout. If "Grass Mountain" continues the nods to what must have been a fairly mainstream style in Taiwan a few decades ago, "Don't Be Discouraged" adds a very post-punk rhythmic base under James' vocals. The effect on that cut is decidedly modern and one can't help but recall Broadcast and even Hewson's own Lake Ruth, both bands ones that blend a sort of retro-futuristic set of riffs with modern instrumentation.
Elsewhere, "Love at First Sight" continues that approach while the energetic "Going Home" reveals the strongest melody on this release. Taiwanese Folk Style closes with the lilting "Autumn Nostalgia", all folk hooks and jazzy beats. Like most of the subtle charms on Taiwanese Folk Style, the pleasures for a listener here involve a very astute mingling of styles and cultures. That this is a highly personal project for Hewson Chen only adds to the appeal of this release. Delightfully modest in approach and yet wholly perfect in the way it seamlessly blends the father's interpretations of material from his youth with nimble performances from guitarist Chen and drummer White, Taiwanese Folk Style from James Chen is a truly pleasant surprise and one which I enjoyed immensely.
Out now via Moon Glyph Records, Taiwanese Folk Style from James Chen is sure to delight the fans of the bands behind these players (The New Lines, Lake Ruth, and Lorelei).