Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ashtray Navigations - Sugar Head Record (Deep Water 2XCD-R)

Here's another twofer from Deep Water Acres, this time courtesy of Phil Todd's endlessly productive Ashtray Navigations project. Seriously, this dude releases so music its unheard of, and the consistency of his output is ridiculous. This one presents only three tracks over its two discs, meaning that the name of the game is, as per usual with this scenario, extended psychedelic improv. Yet Todd always seems to fill every crevice that that term can suggest every time out, and he moves just as unerringly here.

The first disc presents only one track, an hour long soup called "Sugar Head Music with Sines." Starting off nice and slowly, the piece gradually builds, mixing droning raga-style moves with delaying percussion and guitar lines. Todd always takes his time with his creations, making sure to keep things moving by hitting a variety of zones on his way to mental mud. As shuddering pulses undulate beneath, his guitar continues its frayed momentum, catalyzing itself toward some unknown end. There's actually a remarkable consistency presented here, as the undercurrent never seems to waver no matter what is being soloed on atop. Not that not wavering requires not changing of course; the drones are constantly shifting and creating new gaps for Todd to fill, making the general form of the piece much more about a vertical textural change than any goal-oriented journey. Odd dripping vocals, pittering electronic squishes, everything here is designed for maximum submersion into the mind and murk of Phil Todd's mind.

The following disc splits the bill between "Orange Matter Custard" and "Toilet Training," though "Orange Matter Custard" clocks in at only 8 minutes compared to the near 45-minute barrage of "Toilet Training." Still, it makes its presence known in its comparatively short discourse as washes of static tone are meshed into guitar squall that is so heavily enshrouded by white noise that its tough to pick anything apart. Only about halfway through does the beast reveal its head, and the result is a psychedelic mash of guitar and noise in a sound unlike anyone beside Todd. With such a big noise coming from one person, you wouldn't think he'd feel the need to enlist the help of Crowley and Legard on "Toilet Training," but their presence hardly confuses the proceedings. Rather they sit squarely on the same page as Todd, each member resting comfortably on one sound or instrument for some time. Beginning with a high-end drone and a harp-like string fluttering, the piece slowly glides forward into the mist before descending entirely into a wash of tonal echoes. Really impossible to cover it all here, though the name of the game on this track seems to be a general move from creepy pseudo-haunted drone and less frightening raga psychedelia. Another impressive one from Todd and co. and a nice little package courtesy of Deep Water. Though Ashtray Navigations looks good in pretty much anything, wouldn't you say?

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