Ashtray Navigations - Throw Up in the Sky/With Fine Clinking Magnets (Qbico LP)
You probably remember where you were when you heard the names of the four latest Qbico records hit the streets. It was heavy times. Ashtray Navigations, Astral Social Club, Vibracathedral Orchestra and Michael Flower. Are you kidding? Four U.K.-spawned demolishers. If you're anything like me, you promptly started to fret about which/how many to buy because Qbico records don't really come dirt cheap. I was actually gonna skip em all but I knew I'd regret it later, so I bit the bullet and scored the Ashtray Navigations LP because I know Phil Todd's brew and I know it always hits the spot - not to say the others don't, mind. And heck, they're only about $22 per, which isn't so bad if you think about it. Who needs to eat when you've got records to play, man? Besides, you can feast on the eye candy this album will provide - great, mind-blasting artwork via Phil Todd himself and white/sky blue splatter wax, certainly apropos when taking the title and the music into consideration.
I'm not even sure if anybody else is playing on this record or if it's Todd multitracking, but it's got his acid-stained visions all over the place regardless. Both sidelongs work with an idée fixe - building off of and decorating glorious foundations of sound. "Throw Up in the Sky" is the more "traditional" AxNx piece, if you want to put it that way (it reminds me a lot of what was heard on his fantastic 2006 outing "Four More Raga Moods"). It's a beauty of a slow-moving sheen that starts out with quiet roaring electronics and tinny snare hits that eventually congeal into a heavenly, soupy gloss. Amidst said cascading backdrop is a whole pollution of syrupy synth calls lifted from the same whooshing vein that Acid Mothers Temple are usually so keen to hit on. The loping percussion ushers along Todd's swirling guitar rag, but the track is never in any hurry to get anywhere - all the sounds wind up splayed out in the sun and are allowed to melt freely into one another until either they evaporate or day creeps into night. Todd's mastery of everything even remotely in tune with psychedelia is here in its spangled, sprawlin' glory though he never shoots even so much as a backwards glance - Ashtray Navigations are pushing on into the 41st century and bucking "revivalism" so hard I got saddle sores. It may well be down to an exact science at this point in the game (15 years on!) and I'll still be first in line to guzzle whatever swill's in the beakers.
"With Fine Clinking Magnets" hoists itself up on a grainy, space-vaccuum type drone, with Todd's guitar adding assorted some gasps, some yawns, and plenty of strung-out liquid tonality echoing and reverberating until the next strings are plucked and coerced. The mechanical underbelly lends a disorienting urban feel to an otherwise heavily stoned session of front-porch guitar ramble...even more so when Todd's guitar adopts a sound somewhere close to a banjo stuck with a wah pedal to lay out a supreme bluegrass/psych shred. Or maybe it's Robert Fripp with a Mellotron letting loose on a concrète backing track sniff. All'n'all it's denser and not as gorgeous as the other side (with an ending that's much more "noise" than anything I've heard from the band in recent daze) but it still manages to be a sweet ride and as worthy of your precious time as anything else on the planet.
I may never know if I made the Right Choice when it came down to selecting a fruit from the Qbico branch, but I tell you, those other records have got the bar set sky-high if they're gonna try and top Phil Todd's contribution. I know this one (and probably the three others) are sold out at Qbico by now but there's a few other stores in town that boast copies, so maybe you should try the usual hangouts before you get too discouraged, huh? If you've heard the others (or all of em), lemme know yer thoughts in the comments section a jump or two down below.
Throw Up in the Sky (excerpt)
With Fine Clinking Magnets (excerpt)