My lust for the abstract psychedelic noise guitar blowout poetry of Ashtray Navigations does not abate. Upon sight of this at the Obsolete Units website, I purchased. I think, even, without having read the description or listened to any samples, if there were any there to hear. My bias is obvious, but for many other as well Ashtray Navigations is a tested and trusted institution, so it’s likely that what I have to say about anything Phil Todd does would be sticking more in their minds than nubiles whose pupils don’t dilate to maximum size, or possibly at all upon mention of his work.
I don’t expect Ashtray Navigations to change. I’ve been collecting these recordings for more than 14 years and though they differ, sometimes greatly, from one another, and from piece to piece on each recording, there is obvious continuity and a lot of easily recognizable telltale aspects indicating that you’ve got something Phil Todd dumped his secret spices into. Raw, noisy, often ecstatic, transporting, textural, and most of all, free.
Insect Descent is right in there with any of the various A.N. CDRs I’ve already got (having about 20 of his releases, I am sorely lacking the complete catalog. He’s not quite to Merzbow or Sun Ra levels of proliferation, but…), with its own tonal moods and experiments in textural juxtaposition. I’m very happy with the length, with two of the five tracks being in excess of 20, and two more being in excess of 12 minutes. 70+ minutes of completely satisfying mind-scorch of choice variety; loosely searching for Everything, Nothing, Something. Going Everywhere. Going Nowhere. Simultaneously occupying a dirt-floored-brick-walled basement room lit by a single un-shaded dust-crusted 40 watt bulb (the dingy trash of the fidelity, and the caustic noise castings throughout), and numerous expansive-lush natural Earthscapes (the enmurked tonal backdrops and melodies that sometimes swarm and morph, play opossum, or lay nakedly freckled in the foreground).
This disc has lovely metallic buzzing/tinkering, different flavors of static, a wonderful salad buffet of guitar treatments -often done with trademark automatic-played guitar trance and/or frenzy, worlds crafted in reverb, half hidden manipulations, fizzy intimacy, and it’s all enacted with characteristic genuineness and immediacy. One thing that to me seems new in a minor way in more recent A.N. recordings is the periodic inclusion of electronic percussive elements (for a slightly obscure bit here on #6 “Sweeping Song”, and a track on the previous split LP with Pelktopia), which lends a perfect blend of textural novelty and tasty camp. I find that with every Ashtray Navigations release there is at least one piece that is exquisitely succulent, making the purchase wholly satisfying. For me the magic bite of this album is #5 “Fake Aeroplane”. Conveniently there is an extant sample for this so you can hear it below.
Get this at Obsolete Units: