Asva, Presences of Absences Review

Much has changed for Asva since the release of their last record, What You Don't Know is Frontier, in 2008. First and foremost amongst those changes is the new lineup. Asva is still centered around G. Stuart Dahlquist, but the rest of the band sees this as the first Asva record they've worked on. The new lineup finds Dahlquist on guitars, bass, and various organs, Jake Weller on trumpet and flugelhorn, Greg Gilmore (who played in Love Battery(!), my favorite of the "grunge" bands from the nineties) on drums, and Toby Driver (of Kayo Dot, Maudlin of the Well, Tartar Lamb) on guitars and vocals. You can probably tell from the lineup and instruments involved that this will not just be the "next Asva record."

Indeed, Toby Driver's influence is all over this record, as it has achieved a level of sublime eloquence uncommon in metal today. It should be stated that this is still a metal record in some ways, and the underlying drone element that has typified previous Asva records is as present as ever, but when you hear this record I think you'll agree that we're hearing something very new and very fresh here. It's a somewhat raw and simple album, and in Dahlquist's words, "almost punk-rock in basic ideology." But in this simplicity lies the beauty and genius at play on the record.. There is no excess, no ego, no pomp and circumstance, nothing to slap you in the face to make you take notice.

The songwriting and instrumentation is simple, but still very much grand. Perhaps it is Dahlquist's use of organs in orchestrating the slow and elegant melodies that make this such a unique experience, or maybe it's Toby Driver's varied and enchanting vocals, the twisting imagery at work when the flugelhorn and trumpet come to play, or the fine rhythmic pulse of the drums. Whatever it is, it all congeals to produce a deeply (though not densely) textured work that is characterized as much by its use of space as it is by anything else. That space can be haunting and even processional at times, but it only serves to make this album that much more significant in what it's achieved.

It's easy to hear the intimate connections that the artists themselves have made with this music, and you are thus invited to connect with it as well. Once this album has entered your consciousness, it will be impossible to remove it. To let it in, go to Important Records and order the CD, available now. Soon to be available on 2xLP as well.


Thanks to Stuart Dahlquist for his words, which were helpful in writing this review.

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Nice job on the review!