Ashera - "Colour Glow" (self-released 2000, CD)
Ashera - "Colbalt 144" (self-released 1999, CD)

From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)

Ashera - "Colour Glow" (self-released 2000, CD)

It's always nice to see stereotypical notions overturned. Australians have always excelled at HEAVY music (AC/DC, anyone?), from the proto-boogie/metal of Rose Tattoo and the Coloured Balls, first-generation punks like Radio Birdman and the Saints, the overbearingly-harsh industrialism of Severed Heads and SPK, to obscure 80's rockers like Venom P. Stinger (who contributed to 2/3rds of the lineup of violin-driven prog/pop-rockers Dirty Three) and the blues/grunge of the mighty fEEDTIME.

Throw all those cliches out the window. This is subtly-textured ambient music by Anthony Wright of Sydney, where the liner notes politely instruct the listener to "please play at lower levels". Of course, Ashera are hardly the first ambient aritst from that continent down under, but still ... inspirations here certainly include Harold Budd and Brian Eno's 70's ambient work (although not Eno's tape experimentation that was especially evident in his Fripp collaborations); the female voicings on some tracks are very reminiscent of the less song-oriented side of the UK's 4AD label during the 80's. As expected with this sort of music, changes develop slowly, if at all, with subtle, airy melodies infused in the extended drones. The majority of the sounds appear to be electronic, rather than acoustic (not the "tribal" sound at all). Even the (very) occasional piercing (in this context!) bell/piano-type sounds have a smooth, electronic, sheen that fits the atmosphere here better than the "real thing" would. This is very restrained music, that makes mid-70's Cluster or Tangerine Dream sound like the work of amphetamine-crazed rockers. Having recently been in contact with mr. Wright (in a completely AI-unrelated forum), I look forward to hearing future releases from him, now that he has recently obtained an Alesis Andromeda A6, the first real honest-to-goodness *analog* keyboard synthesizer to be released since the mid-80's. Although I tend not to listen to much music quite this reserved, it's currently providing the perfect soundtrack to a grey and rainy spring afternoon in Northern California; perhaps that's why the New Age musical movement had much of its beginnings in this area.

Reviewed by Doug Pearson

Ashera - "Cobalt 144" (self-released 1999, CD)

Ashera's music is typically quiet, slowly moving space ambient music. There seems to be so little going most of the time but I felt like I was traveling down a dark but heavenly corridor. The ethereal female vocals on tracks like "Cobalt Friends", "Vertical Tunnels", "Moonlight Tides", and "Swimming Cobalt Waters" embellish the music nicely and were among the highlights for me. On "Vertical Tunnels" in particular, the voice is more prominent, it's ethereal presence just as much a part of the landscape as the music.

Ashera excels at creating beauty and tension out of subtlety, not unlike much of Eno's work. Less is more indeed. In fact, most of the tracks are in the 4-5 minute range. But as the music just continually "happens" I'm not sure the extended tracks matter in terms of Ashera being able to "stretch out" more. "144" is the one track that breaks the 10 minute mark, but rather than developing more than the other tracks it takes on a somewhat different character being a fuller symphonic piece and maybe even a little New Agey at times. Yet it's a really nice track that conveys a spiritually uplifting feel. "Ultima Thule" delves just a bit into the avant-garde with what sounds like raking over piano strings and such. The sounds fit well with the ambience and help to give variety to the album. Finally, "Lord Shield Pakal" is one of my favorite tracks with its tense rushing waves of ambient sound along with slight bits of percussion, bird chirps, and other minimalist bits thrown in. Overall, nothing special or different here. Just really well done ambient soundscape music.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

For more information you can visit the Ashera web site.
Contact via snail mail c/o Anthony Asher Wright; 103 Frenches Forrest Road; Seaforth NSW 2092; Australia.

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