Ashtray Navigations

The Love That Whirrs

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Ashtray Navigations have been around since the mid-'90s and their discography runs a half-mile long, but all of it bar one or two titles consists of extremely limited releases on vinyl and CD-R, which makes The Love That Whirrs all the more interesting. Released as a CD on Last Visible Dog (and therefore in a respectable run, with good distribution in alternative channels), this album features main man Phil Todd surrounded by Alexander Neilson (occasionally with Black Forest/Black Sea) and Ben Reynolds. Melanie Delaney contributes reeds and tapes on one piece. This is a small group working on a large scale. Each piece is between ten and 15 minutes long, evolves slowly, and draws the listener in for the long haul. Echo-drenched psychedelic drones, multi-layered acoustic experiments, and tribal dirges form the core of the music. Primitive melodies and rhythms occasionally surface, like in the beautiful "Swastika'd Angels Will See to Your Ruination," evoking a heavier No-Neck Blues Band or a more sedate Bardo Pond. In fact, most of The Love That Whirrs fits in between those two landmarks, coupling the free folk ethos of the first one with the electricity of the second. The album as a whole may be a bit too long (75 minutes split between six tracks) for one listening session, but each track would have lost some of its power had it been edited down or broken into smaller pieces -- for instance, "She's Like Black Glass on a Pinball Table, Threatening the Love That Whirrs" sounds like two or three separate performances pieced together and works nicely like that, better than if these fragments had been presented as separate tracks. Headphones are recommended, since the stereo mix is both wide and deep.

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