Donovan Jones is better known as Black Taffy, a Dallas-based project with releases on Dallas Distortion Music and Leaving Records, including this year's Elder Mantis, a much-anticipated album debut. You won't find much information dotted around on Jones himself, other than he's the firstborn son of Pentecostal music ministers and grew up witnessing the power music has to induce trance and encourage spiritual awakening, but his music—his bass-heavy experimental leanings—have brought him a lot of attention ever since he first surfaced in 2015.
You can place Jones' music in the realms of Ninja Tune, Stones Throw, and, of course, Leaving Records. Across his discography you'll find glitch-hop, ambient, lo-fi, r&b, and IDM—it's imaginative and genre-blending, light-hearted but cerebral. (He describes Elder Mantis as a "therapy record" which features some of the "most therapeutic instruments" to sample and repurpose.) His podcast touches on all of these, featuring some of his favorite records of present but with a focus on beat-oriented music while also giving a proper nod to a couple southern R&B/rap jaunts that have inspired him over the years. Grab it now via the WeTransfer button below.
What have you been up to recently?
Last October I was invited to Brazil to attend an artist residency, Residência São João, in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro. The residency lasted two weeks but I ended up staying for five weeks with my new friends while traveling between Rio and São Paulo playing shows, digging for records/tapes and composing music. It was life changing and I’m trying to get back to the cachaça asap.
Since returning home, I've spent the last few months composing and recording more music for my next album, commissioning music videos from some of the best creators in the South West, collaborating with modern/experimental dancers, and playing regional shows in Texas.
You just released your album debut on Leaving Records. How are you feeling about it?
It feels great and also quite surreal to finally see an idea come to fruition in the physical realm. I spent countless hours trying to create a collection of humble bangers that were both ambient and experimental while also being palatable to the layperson. Lucky for me to have friends (Dallas Ambient Music Nights, Aural Canyon, Botany) that presented my album to Mathewdavid while he was touring through Texas last March. We met up at his DAMN performance and ventured onward into the night until the sun came up. I woke up with a delicious hangover and the promise of a record deal. That was almost one year ago. I really couldn’t have asked for a better label to sign with. It took a while for me to realize how much Mathewdavid and myself have in common being two southern boys that fuck heavily with experimental beats, cassette tapes, and have a deep appreciation for minimalist ambient/new age music. That being said, I’m a little beside myself with how well Elder Mantis is being received by hard-hitting entities and personal heroes.
How did you find producing an album compared to EPs?
EPs are much less tedious in my opinion. It's easier for me to create a cohesive set and setting in four or five songs for an EP. With an album, I tend to be hyper-focused on the opening/ending statement, overall pacing, transitions, instrument variations, and key changes between tracks… almost like it's a long ambient piece with crescendos and decrescendos. It took a few months of listening to Elder Mantis in different levels of awareness to finally settle on a track order. To me, EPs are like one or two levels and an LP is the whole game.
When and where was this mix recorded?
This mix was recorded at my home studio in Oak Cliff near the end of February 2019.
Is there a particular theme or idea behind it?
Well, for the past year I have had a monthly residency in Dallas where I screw and chop cassettes, youtube rips, lo-fi hip hop, phonk, and vaporwave music while my buddy Brian Tomerlin uses modular gear to synthesize and project a visual aesthetic. I wanted this mix to feel like something you would actually hear me perform in person. All of the tracks are screwed and chopped live by my self using Ableton and an SP-404sx running through some outboard gear. Also, shout out one time to Mathewdavid for the Goodhertz plugins.
How did you choose the tracks that you included?
I wanted to focus specifically on beat-oriented music that I currently enjoy while also giving a proper nod to a couple southern r&b/rap jaunts that have inspired me over the years. At the same time, a handful of the minimalist instrumental tracks have helped to inform my current creative processes. There are a couple of deep cuts out of the Houston rap game as well.
What’s next on the horizon?
I have a grip of shows at SXSW this year, then in April, I’ll be collaborating with five or six dancers on an hour-long ambient/downtempo piece for vibraphone and celeste to be performed at the Meyerson Symphony Center in downtown Dallas. In May, I do a three-week West Coast and Canada tour with some very special peoples. I'll finish my next album or two, drop a beat tape, and just keep digging. I’m trying to turn over them rocks to see what’s written on their bellies.
Due to issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the podcast here.
01. Eevee & Made In M "Lone"
02. Mt. Marcy "Braids"
03. Toonorth "Dragonfruit"
04. With U’ "Bloom"
05. Ycbej. "Inure." [w/ lester, nowhere]
06. Knwone (Cycle of Doom) "Mood Mix"
07. Dub A "Lean Lean"
08. Kloudbug & Inteus "M&Ms for Breakfast"
09. Skucci "Flying High"
10. Guerilla Maab "What Will it Take"
11. DJ Yung Vamp "Blood Father 10 k"
12. DJ Yung Vamp "U Aint 'Bout da Shit"
13. Big Steve "My B*tch"
14. Aaliyah "Man Undercover"
15. Acounta "Together Alone"
16. "Eevee "Beau"
17. "Bsd.u "Charlie"
18. Knowmadic "Someone"
19. Delt "Glance"
20. Arbour "Pine"
21. Outkast "Elevators"