Artist: Ashley Reaks
Title: Power Failure
Keywords: Experimental, Ambient, Ambient Rock, Collage, Dub, Post-Punk
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
… I have a feeling you’re going to love this album. I know this, because I am full of magical hunches like that. They pop out of me from time to time. I don’t even want to write an intro for this, I’d love to just talk about the music hurriedly and then post a link real fast so you can hear it as soon as possible. Actually, you know… it’s not like there’s some rule that I necessarily have to post a link at the bottom of the review, right? Here you go… boom-chakka-lakka!
… wow. I feel empowered right now. I’m breaking all the rules in this review. Shit, maybe I should post, like… three of those links in a row for no good reason. SHAZZAM!
… ok, perhaps I’ve gone mad with power. I’m gonna have to reel it back a bit. Anyway, now that I’ve linked you four times, feel free to click and listen to all this great music, while reading the review even! This is going to be amazing, I’m very excited.
So, we received a request to review this eclectic work from UK-based artist Ashley Reaks awhile ago, but I sat on it for a bit, figuratively speaking, so that I could work out how to begin talking about it and not sound like some kind of gibbering fool. I was never successful, so I figured, why not gibber? Gib on, I said to myself, glibly gibbling. Ashley Reaks provides vocals, guitar, bass and keyboards on this record, backed by several other artists. Lucy Mizen adds vocals, Maria Jardardottir adds even more vocals (or vocalizations, anyway) and Dave Kemp and Ian Peak play saxophones.
The first of these awe-inspiring tracks is titled ‘Egg To Worm To Fly’. It comes in with some choirs, bits of organ… vocals come in, reminding me slightly of The Shamen for some reason, though that impression quickly dissipates. There’s a nice bassline, a kind of dizzy breakbeat, some free floating guitar. The lyrics are very strange and fun! I love the movement of the music… the vocals are what really suck you in because the layering is so dazzling. Very impressive! Piano, orchestral patterns, all of them textures woven into the fabric of this music, with it’s unique groove and general strangeitude.
‘Lucky Gordon’ is also something that immediately hooks you, with these really nice vocals! Dreamy pianos are lulling me into musical complacency. It’s even better when the rhythm and bass come in, feeling kind of like a mystical wonder ride of sound, somewhat ambient and like highly eclectic trip hop maybe. Emphasis on the trip, de-emphasis on the hop. The only hopping being done is by my brain, as it moves along with this ethereal track.
‘No Wonder Camels Spit’ begins with a plonky piano with subtle echo. I’m really enjoying the sound of the reversed strings that come in. I love the flutes, too! It has, in the strange context of this album, a sort of… ballroom on fire feel. Dance while the world burns, while the titanic sinks.
Then it’s ‘Bulldog Grace’, featuring guitar by Nick Dunne. There’s a bellish sequence, a nice synth bass line, a skittery beat, flutes… it’s really very magical. I love the lyrics here too, the vocals are so happy-go-lucky in tone, but with the wildest DaDa imaginative horror type vibe in the lyrics. Oh oh, it’s a saxophone, love it! I think I’m in love with this weird fucking album. It’s the product of skill and talent, making me laugh while simultaneously wanting to just lay here and absorb all of the prettiness of the sounds. So well produced, too.
‘Karma Bonfire’ has an extra vocalist, Joe Hakim. It begins with a sitar dirge, adding tablas and spoken words. Horns are layered above, very pleasant. After the spoken word piece drops away, some really chill female vocals are thrown in, the track gets a bit of dub flav, some sax, world jazz sounds abound. Makes me want to sip coconut milk on a nice sunny beach someplace.
Afterward, it’s ‘Miss Holy Holy’, beginning with vocals which then turn into a duet chorus, then the track starts to feel like a very harmonic a cappella type thing. I actually really like it, despite that this is not the usual cup of tea I might drink. I think it’s the sort of chill-but-urgent melodic element of it. Oh, and the lyrics are pretty great! Then it fades away.
‘Skin Crawl’ starts with some deep, filtered drums that lead into a bass for a moment at which point the music ends abruptly and repeats back. This happens a couple times, but… oh wait, nevermind, that was just my computer messing up! So forget that, the music continues on after all. This track has some really nice vibes, the guitar glides over everything, the groove is smooth I think with a touch of rhythm guitar, there’s a lot of atmosphere, interesting synth sequences, vocals, a kind of soundtrack sound with the bells. Really cool stuff!
Dan Mizen plays drums on the next track, titled ‘The Glance Of Mercy’. It starts with some sax, some kind of reversed cymbal sound, even more saxophone… ok, lots of saxophone! Love it! Very cheery, cheering me up. The drums and a bass come in, this is some really intense, wild music, the “I don’t give a fuck waltz”, and it’s really unforgettable. The guitars at the end are really nice, some sounds are reversed.
The last track is ‘Jesus In The Manger’, and there’s actually a video for this one. It’s really creepy, in a good way, haha! Begins with some peculiar, breathy humming… I hear a tiny saxophone with something like telephone bypass going on. The mumbling vocals continue, sounding like glossolalia, and guitars come up in the mix. I hear a bass guitar as well, then drums. This one’s got a post-rock feel, very cool! This is probably one of the standout tracks on this album, so hypnotic and intense.
Alright… so that’s that, then. A really solid album, and one I honestly believe you must sit through at least once, regardless of your attention span (there will be plenty here to keep you interested!). I guess I’ll just post a link at the bottom of the… oh, right. I moved the link all the way up there. Hm… maybe that rule served a function after all. It’s looking a bit lonely down here without the link.
Oh!, the repercussions of power and it’s exercise! I will eulogize the link, in the hope that future generations will realize the limitations of power, that authoritarian otherworldly superpowers will only fail humanity in the inherent corruption they bring.
“Here once was a link, but no more. It has ascended to a better place, closer to the top of the page.”