Davis West – Bedroom Bluegrass | A fiddling journey through time and art
The album Bedroom Bluegrass by Davis West has a dozen songs, and each is vastly different from the last one. It is his shift from the Classical style of violin and meddling into so many genres that completely reform the instrument to me.
Davis West is a Japanese-American violinist born in New York City and then raised in Kyoto, Japan. He completed his master’s in Contemporary Performance from the class-apart Berklee College of Music in Valencia, Spain. He is now based out of Berlin, Germany where he is constantly working on music, producing, and collaborating. Davis is a firm proponent of the power of art to move society, and he has been an educator for over a decade. His long-spanning career has given him the chance to collaborate with many artists, as he does on the album Bedroom Bluegrass.
Liontrot opens with an energetic violin, building up to a folklike, bardcore effect. The beats pick up fast, and the violin shines thoroughly alongside jazzy keys. Around the 1 minute and 18 seconds mark, the track relays to synth while maintaining its melody. This transition modernizes the song, and then as you’ve wrapped yourself around it there’s another surprise. The track goes super acoustic around 2 mins and 13 seconds, and the arrangement and interplay of the strings and keys make you feel alive. The first track here gets all the attention because of the diverse musical styles being blended, which also sets the tone for Davis West’s Bedroom Bluegrass as a whole.
Boring Coffee is the second track, super mellow for the first minute, the song then combines with a thrilling synth electropop beat. The violin accents the vocals from the featured artist, and maintains a strong tune that is layered on top of the production. Chromeforest is infused with old-worldly, accordion-style energy. It is alive from the first second, and stays so through all the musical turns and crevices. It creates an aura of bright sunlight and a fresh morning where you just have your rhythm on whatever you touch.
Eila’s Reel takes a step back to the folk style as it opens, and the super catchy opening melody sticks with you like the song progress. It is definitely the track I vibed to the hardest on this album. Fast Awake is fast, awake, uplifting, energizing, and very hopeful. It gives me the feeling of a fast life that passes by very quickly, and you’re awake for it but barely catch it.
You barely feel it, but the album is halfway over with Notebrush Jig. The opening has fingerwork and string play on the violin which gets your attention right away. And then an almost 18th-century royal melody takes over. And before you know it, Davis is modernizing it – playing with the tempo and beats! Coinflip is the beginning of the second half. Some might argue this is the better half, and I wouldn’t dispute them. All the classic vibes are straight out with this number, and the artist showcases how modern electronic music can benefit from learning from its acoustic predecessors. Just a combination of these sounds makes my Zoomer heart bloom!
Greenfire’s highlight is the violin solo. It reminds me of music class when I was a kid and I learned that the violin family has the widest-ranging ability for hitting notes. If you’re into acoustic, and if you’re listening to this for the first time it is your highlight. Then is Console Theory, a cinematic track that is equal parts thriller and futuristic space battle.
Silvercloud once again changes the tone of the album. Starting out low and heavy, it is a display of the wide range of emotions and feelings that the violin, and perhaps specifically this incredible violinist is able to achieve. Skating in Shlump is all about the piano – a first for this album. It calms you down, giving you a moment to reflect and redress the songs that have passed you by. And then it’s time for the final track Point of You. This one is bubbly and playful, a duet that also features some crazy good vocals, and the violin backdrop which makes for a fresh take on an anime title track that gets stuck in your head.
In conversation with Davis West
Ques. You were born in NYC, the hub of incredible indie music. How did growing up in Kyoto lead you down the musical journey?
Davis: Living in Kyoto as a kid helped me appreciate the idea of feeling “home” wherever I went. My family moved around quite a bit, so it was nice to always have my violin, video games, and my sister as constants I could call my home.
About Davis West’s Bedroom Bluegrass
Ques. What inspires the very different tracks on Bedroom Bluegrass? There’s folk influences, bardcore, hip hop – how do you mix it all up so magically?
Davis: My personal tastes shaped each track in vastly different ways. Having seriously studied classical, jazz, bluegrass, and music production, I find some level of comfort within each stylistic… “house” if you will. But as much as I love playing in orchestra or on the bandstand, I think the most original music today comes from mixing up the different familiar “rooms” in this proverbial flat and turning it into your own abominable architecture. Hopefully for the better.
Ques. What do you want a listener to take away from this album? How would you describe it for someone who hasn’t heard your music before?
Davis: For any listeners new to my music, I want to instill a sense of comfort in each of my disparate tracks. I’ve met so many music enthusiasts who say they like “everything except country,” or serious jazz musicians who say they “can’t stand rap music.” Rather than exclude a genre of music for its past (or one’s assumption of it), I think it’s important to look at each genre with an optimistic/experimental sense of wonder.
The evolution of a master violinist
Ques. You’ve produced many songs and albums over the years, how do you think your music has evolved and what have you learned with experience?
Davis: With every new release, my music feels more like a snapshot of my skills and tastes, and less like pandering to the masses. Of course, I want to please the listener, but it also has to be genuinely me. I’ve stopped being apologetic about sincere lyrics, or paralyzed by potential judgment. I love doing it, and every release feels like I’m getting closer.
Ques. You’ve been an educator for over a decade. Why do you do it, and what does it bring to you?
Davis: Plain and simple, teaching gives me joy. It’s a different kind of joy than being showered with applause after a show. There are few things as satisfying as a passionate student having that humbling “aha!” moment about a subject that I find so dear. I also find that explaining a musical concept to others, helps me understand it deeper for myself. It’s a lot like therapy.