Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Ashtray Navigations - 'Four More Raga Moods' (Ikuisuus)

Four tracks, four raga moods? Well a deliciously ornate foldout CD-digipak is a nice start. The opening track, 'History of Psychedelia', begins with a weird cut-up tape moment before Ben Reynolds starts to play the acoustic guitar in a Takoma-esque flowery style. There's some variable speedwarble and a few dips and then it creaks to a halt. I'm not sure if this covers the whole history of psychedelia in such a short time, but I guess it's a start. And then onto 'Hey Sunflower Motherfucker': Phil Todd solo, and it's a 10 minute "typical" Ashtray track, though that's not to denigrate it - it's a deep, dense buildup of drone and feedback with some drumming as well. As a venue for Phil to show what he can do on his own, he excels here. 'The Pete Nolan Effect' is Pete and Phil and Mel Delaney and Reynolds, and it opens with ten minutes of melodies buried under a ridiculous amount of tape hiss - before the proper "jam" comes in, with a flange-heavy distant recording technique. Said jam starts slowly - very slowly - and over the course of the next twenty minutes it moves little. Pete Nolan is on guitar so it doesn't come in with any thunderous rocking; in fact, it's difficult to determine what, if anything, is "the Pete Nolan effect". The final track is another twenty minutes of deep dense droning, this time featuring Chris Hladowski, Alex Neilson and Matt Cairns, from the Glasgow band Scatter. This weirdo hybrid is spooky and foreign-sounding due to the presence of dijiridoo and "magic bouzouki", but somehow true to the vibe of the record. Everything is still staticy and crackly, and it's actually quite a gem from the discographies of all of these gentlemen, yet one that is probably forgotten by being buried at the end of a 70+ minute Astray Navigations CD that no one will ever listen to the end of. Despite the deluxe gatefold CD packaging and the crisp CD sound, Phil Todd made sure to keep enough noise and static on here to show his roots. And despite having four different lineups on four different tracks, it feels coherent -- like a proper "album" done all at once, even though it's nothing but. But it wouldn't quite be Ashtray Navigations if the cellotape and band-aids didn't show on the outside.

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