Astral Cloud Ashes is essentially Antony Walker. Additional credits include Jason Neil on backing vocals. But the music here, drums, bass, guitar, occasional synths… is all written and recorded by Mr. Walker.
Taking complete control of the vision can lead to self-indulgence… Walker avoids this by painting with sincerely executed vocals, complete with attention to texture in delivery and production techniques that add variety and depth. His voice is never confrontational, despite the urgency in which much of his wordplay is woven into the songs.
The location for such introspective warm indie rock is the unlikely Island of Jersey, located off the coast of France.
This geographic isolation is captured well on the full length, “Too Close To The Noise Floor”. As a ‘band’, Astral Cloud Ashes holds a smooth trickle of indie rock throughout the release. Guitars meander along single note runs held up by solid foundation bass-lines. While having a fair amount of complexity, the guitars walk above the percussion, only to serve as a light to shine upon the vocal presence. Even most ‘solos’ are just melodic interludes, often draped in reverb and echo, but serve these songs well as they typically align with thoughtful lyrical tones.
Part of the lush delivery that is layered into this album is a result of numerous mixing sessions in a variety of different studios with as many engineers.
Walker comments on his reasoning for this, “I wanted to disrupt my usual creative process. I was convinced that I would learn something of real value if I was able to look over the shoulder of industry professionals as they worked on my tracks…”
The approach paid off, resulting in an album that sounds as professional as they come, especially considering the lone wolf musician and recording process.
While never approaching aggressive, Walker manages to create heartfelt moments without wallowing in overly-emotional wreckage… which is essential the difference between ‘indie’ and ’emo’.
The title track, “Too Close To The Noise Floor” showcases tricky guitars that wrap snake-like runs behind moody bass support. The song rises and falls, but manages to keep a pumping up-tempo throughout. Astral Cloud Ashes excel in making a light indie rock that doesn’t come off weak or watered down in missed attempts at being dramatic, something many comparable bands (The Pixies, XTC, Taking Back Sunday, The Promise Ring, much of the indie/emo movement of the late 90’s, early 2000’s) fail to accomplish.
“The Man I Had To Become” is the opening track that features a whispered intent of vocals, reminiscent of Blair Shehan (Knapsack / The Jealous Sound). A spoken word-like ‘solo’ appears around the half-way mark, dropping poetry and changing the vocal mood. It is in these moments the listener realizes Antony Walker has a solid command over both his words and cadence in vocal structures.
“Lites” floats with a pleasant earnestness, highlighting Walker’s stronger poetic sense, linking words into rhyme schemes that stick together in a way that gives the track that much more weight against the somber guitar slides.
“Housing In A Bubble” is one of the few tracks that leans more into the rock spectrum of the indie approach. Some semi-shouted choruses light this track up as a stand-out on this release. Perhaps it’s the added intensity to Walker’s already brooding sense of lyrical finesse, but it suits Astral Cloud Ashes well even though it’s buried towards the tail end of the album.
There is an impressive consistency throughout, “Too Close To The Noise Floor” that seems to find a range of themes along a similar musical approach. Walker’s skillful production gives each track enough identity to survive as a lone idea, while simultaneously being able to weave a constant sonic vibe all through this release to tie the album together into an indie rock confessional. Lush and intricate without losing itself in unnecessary complexity, the songs are delivered with a tangible sense of the artist’s passion.
You can stream (or buy if it moves you) any/all of “Too Close To The Noise Floor” on Astral Cloud Ashes bandcamp site here: Astral Cloud Ashes BandCamp.