AMN Reviews: Steve Ashby & Vicki Hallett – The Shore Sang of Ghosts [Bandcamp]

Back in 2017, Richmond guitarist, composer and sound artist Steve Ashby met Australian clarinetist, composer and sound artist Vicki Hallett when both were participating in a field recording residency in South Africa. The encounter bore fruit in the form of their collaborative work The Shore Sang of Ghosts, an album the two created by exchanging files literally from opposite ends of the globe. The physical distance between them may have been great, but musically Ashby and Hallett show themselves to be in close proximity.

All four tracks on the album are heavily atmospheric. In fact, they represent four developments and elaborations of a single, fundamentally introspective mood. On all of them Ashby’s bracingly clear and clean guitar floats over a timelessly oscillating electronic ground drenched in resonant effects, while Hallett brings similarly ethereal lines on flute, clarinet and bass clarinet to add alternately bright and dark colors to the fore of the mix. Ashby and Hallett’s melodies are independent of each other yet complementary, giving good evidence of a shared sensibility undiminished by thousands of miles of separation.

Overall, the music brings to mind the image of cumulus clouds drifting and mutating slowly overhead. But as the low frequency undertow becomes more salient and the textures thicken as the album progresses, one can imagine a different, darker set of clouds piling up just on the horizon.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Steve Ashby – Winter Birds & Crackles and Codes [Bandcamp]

a0762889049_2The atmosphere is an open field of communications, the air a chaotic meeting ground of audible sounds as well as a more recondite network of radio and television signals, radar emissions and the effluvia of various wireless devices. Steve Ashby’s Crackles and Codes and Winter Birds present two different but complementary portraits of the waves pervading the air.

a3575064408_2Ashby, a guitarist, composer and electronics experimentalist in Richmond, VA, assembles sound elements sourced from field recordings and composed passages and constructs them into thick soundscapes suggestive of particular times or locations. Winter Birds, a five-track work based on field recordings taken during the winter of 2015, is evocative of the damp, grey winters of the Mid-Atlantic region. Ashby sampled birdsong, wind chimes and other sounds in the air and processed them into a sonic image that recalls those moments at twilight when birdsong becomes particularly salient. Crackles and Codes is a single drone-based track that seems to call up the ghosts of untuned radios. Over the course of its eighteen and a half minutes a slowly moving, foreboding melody on guitar emerges and disappears into a thick background of resonant, suspended harmony.

Daniel Barbiero