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Ashley Reaks — Winter Crawls
(Bandcamp no#, 2023, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-10-11

Winter Crawls Cover art

It’s been a few years since we covered anything by Ashley Reaks — that was Growth Spurts in 2017. On Winter Crawls, he indulges in somewhat more conventional songcraft, but in this case, that’s not at all a bad thing. Reeks clearly has a definition of “conventional songcraft” that is quite different from anyone else’s, which makes this set of tunes decidedly quirky. I’m aware that “quirky” is a word that doesn’t necessarily mean much when applied to music, but it certainly fits here. First off, the lyrics are full of unusual turns of phrase and odd subject matter, as evidenced by titles like “Numbed Out Lump,” “One of God’s Aliens,” “She Picks It Up and Sniffs,” and “Early Ripe Early Rotten.” The songs do not always consist of identifiable verses and choruses. Rhythmically, the arrangements are very erratic, changing meter and full of unexpected accents and tempo changes — all of which are navigated by Reaks himself on bass and drummer Rob Hirons. The guitar and keyboard parts do not generally consist of chords to back the vocals, but arpeggios and countermelodies. The vocals are done by Reaks and Lucy Mizen, and include multitudes of stacked parts that sometimes mass into choirs and sometimes seem at odds with each other. After a number of listens to the album, it struck me that the approach (and overall sound) is a bit reminiscent of the first few Godley & Creme albums. One notable difference is the prominence of Joel Purnell’s saxophones, which, like the guitars and vocals, are often multi-tracked into whole sections. Winter Crawls certainly defies easy categorization, but as an album that blends together elements of art rock, prog rock, and more, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen, and easily Reaks’ best.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Ashley Reaks

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