Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Alphabetical Discovery - Week A, Day Five: Asva

Asva - Photo

Formed in California in 2003 by Burning Witch bassist G. Stuart Dahlquist, who also played bass on Goatsnake's 2001 album Flower of Disease and has featured for Sun 0)), Asva play a richly rich, textured. and slow-burning drone-doom with touches of experimentation and exploration throughout. Their music has the epic scope of film soundtrack's: 2009's What You Don't Think Is Frontier would work perfectly, I believe, as the soundtrack to an adaptation of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying or as the music for some other book-movie adaptation about the desolate, grotesque and gothic southern plains. I hear in their sound the haunting tones of Skepticism drifting through the arid desert partnered with Earth, trudging towards the horizon as waves of psychedelia and orchestra flutter in the air;  in the distance are the silhouettes of mountains under a burning Sun[n 0))]

Earth are an obvious influence, but Asva's music uses a much diverse range of sounds and atmospheres. Asva's first full-length, Futurist's Against The Ocean (2005),is the darkest of their three: a throbbing, unruly mix of slow doom rhythms and electronic sounds. Asva don't neglect the almighty riff from their music: slow and heavy, and on their first album in particular, they flow in to the mix like molten lava, gradual and crackling, with elements of traditional and funeral doom steaming from the fires. That's not to say there aren't any moments of speed and intensity (from the perspective of drone);  at 12.20 of 'A Game In Hell' from What You Don't Think Is Frontier, after twelve minutes of steady thunder, the drums kick in and pick up pace: heavy, galloping hooves and frontier men, wading through prairie grass and past wild-creatures in the new found-land. 

In 2010 vocalist and guitarist Toby Driver,  the creative mastermind behind avant-garde/progressive projects Maudlin Of The Well and Kayo Dot, joined the band for Presences of Absences (2011), their last full-length: an ethereal and spacey record combining soft organ sounds, wispy individual vocals, church-choir harmonies, mournful melodies and the occasional breakdown in to guitar-led heaviness. It's solemn and reflective, with the odd unsettling touch that sets a listener off balance. It's also hauntingly minimalist with Philip Glass-esque textures and Scott Walker-esque sparsity.

Asva are constantly developing  and changing, they defy concrete categorisation; like Earth and Sun o)) - two of the most important, and probably best, of this vague and wide-reaching style - Asva seem always willing to explore and change up their sound, you won't find monotony here.

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