This Ascension

Walk Softly, A Dream Lies Here

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This Ascension's move to Projekt Records after the demise of their Tess label is a wise one. For one, Sam Rosenthal reissued the band's back catalog and has invested in their continually maturing, ever-evolving sound. Walk Softly, a Dream Lies Here, despite its immersion on the gothic ambiences and dynamics of previous efforts, is still perhaps the band's most progressive and diverse recording. "Adonis," the gorgeous, darker-than-blue drum/keyboard/guitar instrumental that opens the disc, is a movement of sublime grace and rock & roll elegance. There are few chord changes, and as the deep tom-tom rolls move the tune forward, guitars and keyboards paint in the frame with emotion, passion, and grace. Kevin Serra's Joy Division influence suits the band well this time out, as Dru counters with an inflection that is at once both transcendentally beautiful yet immersed in a folkiness that brings her lyrical considerations down to the listener with a razor-sharp point without losing any of their seductive power. Sally Barr's bass playing is a force as well, acting not only in concert with but as an extension of Matt Ballesteros' drumming. She punches the notes home, shoving them up under the chord changes even as she directs them, and gives Dru a solid platform from which to lilt, soar, cress, and careen through the mix. Notably this happens on "Exhibition," where Serra moves through a series of riff-like changes and Dru intones before beginning to climb the gale the band creates behind her. It's a militant track full of grief, loss, anger, and resolution. And in this entwining development of emotions, the sensual begins to breathe, to whisper from maelstrom and call the listener toward the fire pit inside a broken heart. "Light and Shade" positively shimmers with Dru's overdubbed vocals just behind the hypnotic beat and twinned guitar riffing of Serra. The addition of a string section on tracks such as "Angel Light" creates yet another wall of mystery and crystalline atmospherics for listeners to find themselves lost in, particularly when the band crashes through it and heads for the unknown territories, as Dru comes on like a winged banshee whose message if from a god listeners can't or perhaps don't want to understand. This is music as living art and literature, a process that unfolds in each track into an album and with each album, as this band grows out into a unit that seems to surprise even them. For any of you who believe that the gothic music wave ended in the '80s, think again; if anything, that time proved to be an era of inspiration for these very capable, highly creative musicians to architect a music of their own design and insignia that is at once haunting and harrowingly beautiful and carries within it the beauty of loneliness; the scar of a faithful, burning heart; the rage of rock & roll betrayed; and the sense of divine humanity inherent in the most extreme notions of love, hatred, desire, and pathos.

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