Ashtray Navigations - Ink Clouds And Axe Revealer
Memoirs Of An Aesthete. CDR. 100 Copies
Ocelocelot - The Umbragechord
Total Vermin. Cassette
Observant Wire readers may have noticed a ‘letter’ from my goodself gracing the pages of their latest end of year round up edition. Said missive was not submitted by me via email as stated but was actually copy and pasted from this very blog after a third party brought the article in question [from whence the ‘letter’ was lifted] to the attention of Wire editor Chris Bhon. At first I was flattered, this soon turned to annoyance and then finally acceptance. At least I’ve had a ‘letter’ published in Wire magazine ran one thought and then, but why didn’t they get in touch and ask me if they could use my work? I suppose that anything published on a blog will be seen as being in the public domain and therefore open to use and abuse but still, a comment left in the appropriate place would have a earned a reply. Life goes on.
I felt duty bound to buy myself a copy of said rag and seeing as how I was due a trip to Leeds to seek out Oliver Sweeney sale items I thought I might as well kill two birds with one stone. So there I was sat in Romagna’s cafe with my bowl of pasta and glass of red flicking through the latest Wire when I all but involuntary sprayed a huge gob full of everything onto the couple at the next table. I’d arrived at the regular Global Ear column and guess which city it was covering? Yes, Leeds of course and here I am in Leeds which is just about my home town and the place where I’ve been to more gigs than anywhere else and where I like to think I know [or knew] some of the people involved in the experimental music scene and as I’m reading Bruce Davies column all I’m waiting for is the mention of Todd and Delaney and Ashtray Navigations and The Termite Club and and and nope, no, not a word. Not a fucking sausage. Todd and Delaney are like Leeds Experimental royalty and even if the Termite Club has been tucked up in bed for a while its not as if its ceased to exist completely. But no mention of any of them? Oh dear. Davies does mention those other giants of the Leeds arts scene, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth [perhaps without realising that Moore was born in Castleford and Hepworth in Wakefield both about 15 miles away] before coughing up those other predictables, The Kaiser Chiefs and the Sisters of Mercy [the former a band that ditched grunge with the emergence of Brit Pop and the latter featuring a lead singer who changed his surname to Eldritch in the hope that it would make him appear more interesting] but no Wedding Present? No Mekons? No Three Johns? Certainly no Ashtray Navigations or Ocelocleot or even a hint towards the Termite Club. Life goes on. Again.
By the intervention of some unseen force I arrived home that day to find a package from Todd and Delaney awaiting me. I gave Ink Clouds And Axe Revealer about six straight spins and then got stuck into the Ocelocelot tape. Ash Navs is Phil and Mel playing together and Ocelocleot is Mel flying solo. During Ink Clouds I was transported back to the mid 70’s and kept uttering names like Froese and Fripp and maybe even Tomita to myself. Somehow they’ve managed to squeeze in Chris Carter along the way too. The psychedelic drone is still in full effect of course with Todd’s guitar soaring away like a high voltage out of control lava lamp but for now it comes wrapped in a 70’s prog keyboard homage. At least on the second track ‘Secretaries of the Future’ it does, which is pure mid 70’s solo Froese and somehow feeds in to the current craze for all things Emeralds keyboard prog. Theres even a hint of some breathy Florian Schneider flute sounds. ‘Horn Progress Affectation’ even goes and outdoes Emeralds stringer McGuire in the melody stakes - its a dual guitar duel with high end electric guitar dabs producing notes of short star like blink quality over a bed of keyboard note melody - theres a bit of Pussyfooting Fripp in there too. Erased by Ornithology, Incorporation Pop and Faxing sit in more familiar Ash Navs territory whilst last track Sponge isn’t a million miles away from Throbbing Gristles AB/7A. A bit like AB/7A meets Walter Wanderely in fact.
These six tracks and thirty minutes worth are what keep bringing me back to Ashtray Navigations. Not a bad track, not a bad second of work, endlessly listenable, totally rewarding. An impressive achievement. I’m a fan. I’ll always be a fan. No doubt some label is queueing up the vinyl reissue already. Bring it on.
This more melodic approach appears to have rubbed off on the other half of Ashtray Navigations. Delaney’s work under the Ocelocelot moniker has often seen her deliver drones of a more abrasive nature, NoiseDrone for want of a better term, but here, using a Keytar and an Evolver, she gives us her most melodic work to date.
The metronomic burble is long enough to get your head round and would no doubt induce mild bobbing should circumstance prove conducive whilst the other is a split level slow moving drone with a sub strata of deep hertz om over helicopter blade chop - a track which reminded me in great amounts of that sublime Sand track erm ... Helicopter. Mr Froese would no doubt approve very much jah.