S​.​T​.​L​.​A.

by Gordon Ashworth

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about

It's been a long, strange journey for Gordon Ashworth over the past few years. The Portland, Oregon resident has played in over 20 countries and released countless artifacts under his various solo guises: Concern, Oscillating Innards, CAEN, and others. He is also a member of the black/death metal band, Knelt Rote. After retiring Concern, however, a new aural picture has taken shape. S.T.L.A. showcases Ashworth at his absolute best, pressing dense compositions through a unique prism that straddles the line between melodic and abstract. Elemental influences of folk music as well as musique concrete and acousmatic works are audible within the sprawling confines of S.T.L.A.

Opener "Norma" sets the stage. Solemn banjo plucks resonate underneath clouds of minimal tonal shifts that evoke inner contemplation until bleeding into the slow, subtle grind of "Upbringing." This is music that creeps. As it crawls along, shards of light seep into the murky, haunting sonic expanse. Richness and texture are added throughout S.T.L.A. via Ashworth's field recordings made while working at night as a taxi driver and during a three month public transit tour in late 2010. Many of these strange, scratchy sounds are the result of getting lost in European cities in the winter and it adds another layer of desolation to the music. It's powerful.

The middle of S.T.L.A. is the anchor point of this record, though. "Suite For Broken Sex" revels in its catharsis, finding solace and hope in desperate piano chords that bend underneath layers of distorted drones. At high volumes it is all encompassing, like a black hole from which there is no escape. Like all good counterpoints do, "To Be The Man I Want To Be" strips the layers down to their barest point. Emotions run raw on rapid fire banjo excursions and discrete field recordings. Everything about the song is timeless, from the overt nods to American primitive to early Appalachian and African influences, finds the sweet spot between familiarity and the unexpected. Lost in distant memories it evokes feelings of trepidation and isolation while creating a sense of movement within a chaotic world.

Gordon Ashworth shows with S.T.L.A. that leaving Concern behind was the right decision. While the restraint of his previous work is still apparent, there's a newfound sense of freedom to push boundaries and explore the darkest corners of tape loop and acousmatic music. Turn off the lights and get lost inside S.T.L.A.

- Brad Rose

credits

released April 8, 2014

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Orindal Records Chicago, Illinois

Records by Karima Walker, Julie Byrne, Lisa/Liza, Hello Shark, Dear Nora, Gordon Ashworth, Concern, Robert Stillman, Nicholas Krgovich, Advance Base & Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

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