Owen Ashworth performs poignant, lushly arranged indie pop songs as Advance Base. Previously known for his beloved indie electronic outfit Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, which released several albums and toured constantly between 1997 and 2010, he retired the project and started fresh, establishing Advance Base in 2011. Featuring an organic-sounding mix of acoustic instrumentation and minimal electronics, albums such as 2015's Nephew in the Wild and 2018's Animal Companionship showcased Ashworth's understated singing style and affecting lyrics.
Born in Redwood City, California in 1977, Ashworth began making lo-fi pop songs on cheap Casio keyboards in 1997, combining wry and bitter yet heartfelt and earnest lyricism with bright, simple melodies. Through the course of five full-length albums (all released by German indie label Tomlab) as well as numerous singles and EPs, CftPA showed a remarkable artistic growth, with increasingly ambitious production and arrangements, as well as songs that occasionally rivaled the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt at his best.
Ashworth retired CftPA, as well as all of the songs he'd written under the moniker, in 2010, but intended to continue creating new music. The following year, Ashworth (who had relocated from the West Coast to Chicago) started his new project, Advance Base, sharing its name with Ashworth's recording studio as well as the title of CftPA's 2009 singles/rarities compilation Advance Base Battery Life. Advance Base began playing shows around Chicago, leading to small tours with Concern (the ambient/experimental project of Owen's brother Gordon Ashworth), the Donkeys, the Rapture, and others. Advance Base released a few limited-edition 7" singles, including split releases with Concern and Hello Shark. In addition, Ashworth (a dedicated fan of hip-hop) co-produced Serengeti's album Family & Friends on Anticon.
Advance Base released its first full-length album, A Shut-In's Prayer. Mark Kozelek (who had previously covered CftPA's song "Natural Light") released the CD on his Caldo Verde label, while Ashworth's Orindal Records issued it on vinyl. The critically acclaimed album continued to document Ashworth's growth as a songwriter and arranger, featuring more detailed production and increased usage of piano and autoharp in addition to keyboards and drum machines. Advance Base continued touring, including stints with Ben Gibbard, Hello Shark, and Nicholas Krgovich, and released Instrumentals #1, a limited cassette containing vocal-free versions of his tracks with Serengeti. Serengeti's 7" EP Be a Man, which included two further collaborations with Advance Base, also saw release in 2012.
Advance Base released The World Is in a Bad Fix Everywhere, an EP of songs written by mythical early 20th century Texan street preacher Washington Phillips. This was followed by the cassette release Tomorrow's Homes Today, Ashworth's interpretation of the Magnetic Fields' 1992 EP The House of Tomorrow. Ashworth contributed to Sun Kil Moon's Benji, which was released in early 2014 and subsequently was hailed as one of the year's most critically acclaimed albums. Following numerous live gigs and releasing a few albums by other artists on Orindal Records (as well as two CftPA live LPs), Advance Base released its second full-length, Nephew in the Wild, in 2015. Live album In Bloomington followed in 2016. Animal Companionship, the third Advance Base full-length, was recorded with former CftPA collaborator Jason Quever in Los Angeles, and released in 2018.